Zombie Sears Pasadena Texas: All stocked up, with no one to shop

Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail! Your blogging source for all things retail in Houston! Today, we return to the Sears Hometown where these horrible conversions all started. The former Marcoplaza Mall Sears reopened as the first example of a Sears Hometown Store in a closed Mainline store only a few months ago in late 2021. At the time the store was pathetically stocked, using a bit of leftover shelving to form somewhat of a barrier. Only maybe 1/8 of the original store space was used, and there was no way to get into the mall from Sears. All around the new Sears was a disappointment, and the hopeful staff pinned much of the failings on “supply chain shortages”, and a bungled “soft grand opening” related to the pandemic. With promises of resurfacing the parking lot, getting the bushes trimmed, and a new sign installed all in time for the real grand opening, a few months later. Oddly upon learning about this store, the HHR team discovered multiple other locations getting the same treatment. Including a closed Mainline Store in Arlington, and the closed mainline Sears at Willowbrook Mall more recently. There was also at least one closed Kmart converted in a similar fashion in Wisconsin, taking on the name “Sears Hometown Plus” it also sells a basic assortment of “Pantry Supplies” cleaning products, trash bags, paper towels, and the like. As of the past few weeks photos showing the remaining Sears Mainline stores are starting to look like this. Softlines are not being replenished, only the “Hometown side of products”. With floor space being taken up by Mattress Displays, Treadmills, and Boxxed Appliances it seems that this Pasadena, Texas store was a glimpse into what we can expect from the future of Sears. So since we’re at a store that’s supposed to be a predictor, let’s head inside and see what life will probably be like for the remaining Sears Mainline stores over their remaining life.

I have visited these Sears Hometown conversion locations multiple times now, and have not uploaded photos each time. While I usually plan on taking pictures whenever I visit, the last time I came to the Pasadena store, so little had changed in the two months since my first visit, it wasn’t worth sharing. I also went to the Willowbrook store just as that location was closing for the night only to be turned away. Even though on these occasions I didn’t end up with any photos, I did have the chance to interact with staff. They are a very optimistic bunch, and after speaking with a few of them I learned that most management is previous Sears employees but generally from the Hardware and Hometown side of things. The sales associates on the other hand are almost all brand new to Sears, and many are unfamiliar with how the old store was different from their current one. I will say, that in both stores, every staff member makes an attempt to be welcoming and helpful. However, there seems to be very little that they can actually help with. I have turned these interactions that I have overheard into serialized anecdotes. The details have been generalized, but these are all based on real conversations:

The Craftsman Garuntee

Customer: “Hey I’ve got this Crafstman tool that I bought at this Sears, y’all can replace it right?”
Sears Employee: “Yes of course! We honor the Crafstman Guarantee for any tool we carry, let me scan it.”
Sears Employee: “Oh, I’m sorry we don’t actually carry this anymore, yeah we only carry tools from the 2018 SKU update onward, and nothing sold at Lowes.”
Customer: “But what do you mean? I didn’t buy this at Lowe’s! I bought it at this exact location, 5 years ago!”
Sears Employee: “Right 5 years ago, 2017, won’t be in our system, NEXT!”

The Shipping Fee

Customer: “Hey I’ve got this Crafstman attachment that I bought from Sears Hometown, y’all can replace it right?”
Sears Employee: “Yes of course! We honor the Crafstman Guarantee for any tool we carry, let me scan it.”
Sears Employee: “Okay, so we don’t actually have this in stock, but I can order it for you, but there is a shipping fee, and it will take a while for it to get here.”
Customer: “Alright, how much is shipping, and how long will it take?”
Sears Employee: “Shipping will be (multiple-hundred dollars) and it will get here in (multiple months).”
Customer: “What? That’s ridiculous, that’s the price of a brand new one from your competitor, forget it!”

The Impossible Task

Customer: “Hey I’ve got this Kenmore Appliance that I bought at this Sears with a warranty, y’all can replace it right?”
Sears Employee: “Yes of course! We honor the Sears Warranty for any appliance we carry, let me scan it.”
Customer: “Well I didn’t bring it in it’s a (just this part/bulky item), but I did buy the warranty so can’t you just look me up?”
Sears Employee: “No Unfortunately we can’t look you up, our systems are not connected because (we’re just opening/we’re not the same company).
Customer: “Okay fine, well I can go pry off the build plate and that should work right?”
Sears Employee: “No we would need the whole thing, including your original copy of the warranty, and you must return before we close in 3 minutes.”

Obviously, it’s worth noting, these are faked conversations, and in the conversations I heard, employees may have very well not been operating within best practices due to multiple circumstances (Can you tell an upset Sears Manager left a comment?). Hopefully, your Sears experience will be 5/5!

Overall the stock at this Sears Hometown has increased greatly, and the situation seems to be somewhat the same at the Willowbrook location. I’m guessing the claim of supply chain issues may have held some water, but more likely, these purchases are being fueled by the shutdown of the other remaining Transformco properties. The problems with these Hometown stores are numerous and include issues like quality of merchandise (Workpro Tools seriously?), limited selection, high prices, and a lack of shoppers. Overall I have only ever seen other customers at these Sears Hometown Mall stores in situations like the above, looking for help they can’t get. Each time it seems to end with the customer loudly storming away from the register, cussing out political figures and religious deities alike. Based on anecdotal evidence like seeing what’s gone visit-to-visit and some poor Google reviews saying as such, it seems that these stores are doing a small amount of actual business. If you have a chance to check out a Hometown Store in a mainline Sears, I’d say it’s worth it on pure “shock value” if nothing else. Chances are these won’t be around too much longer, although if you have a local mainline store you may soon see it flip to something like this, so go give it a morbid peek and maybe buy some cheap tools!

4 comments

  1. Went here last weekend, didn’t find anything worth buying. The employee mentioned an expensive toolset that was on sale for a lot more than I was looking to spend. No thanks, but I kept browsing. A family came in shortly thereafter and looked confused. I didn’t hear the conversation, but they were probably shocked to see the nearly empty Sears store.

  2. Even in the pre-Lampert days, Sears had burned a lot of bridges with customers who had problems with their big-ticket purchases. That has continued after Lampert took over and has probably really accelerated after the bankruptcy as customers look for the customer service they expected but aren’t likely to get. So, yeah, the percentage of angry customers going through these Sears Hometown stores probably isn’t a surprise.

    That said, it does look like the inventory at the Pasadena store now is better than what the inventory was at the Willowbrook Mall store the last time I was there. The Pasadena store certainly seems to have more tools and it looks like the dishwasher wall is starting to fill in. I don’t know if either mall store is as well-stocked as the Humble store. The irony is that the Humble store is much smaller than these former mall stores! Then again, it has been open the longest so maybe that bodes well for these newer stores that they’ll slowly get more inventory.

    I think that if nothing else, these Sears Hometown stores should have a good mix of tools and lawn & garden stuff since those might be the only items that will cause people to frequent these stores since most people don’t buy mattresses and appliances all that often.

  3. Maybe I just don’t know anything about business, but I never understood why Sears/American Freight sells these mattresses at outrageous prices. It’s like they have no idea they’re bankrupt and that people are getting them much cheaper from their competitors.

    I’m also wondering if this Sears building will still be around when the rest of the mall gets demolished and turned open-air…

    1. The sticker prices for name brand mattresses are always high everywhere, but they are usually on sale for 40 to 60% off at Sears and Macy’s, depending on the time of year. Some manufacturers make lower quality models (ie fewer coils, cheaper coils) that otherwise look similar on the outside to be sold at other places for a lower sticker price. We just bought a Sealy mattress from Sears to replace an older Sealy, and the ‘normal’ sale price was exactly the same at all retailers that sell that exact model. But we got it during an extra 10% off sale so it was cheaper than other places, and the mattress has been great! By the way, the mattresses in stores are just on display (display models) and not for sale from the floor unless they are still in the bag.

      You can see the prices for mattresses here: [Link to Sears.com removed by admin]

      Also, I doubt many people know this, but Workpro is owned by a company called GoldStar, which is the manufacturer of many different Craftsman hand tools for Sears Craftsman and even some for Stanley Black and Decker’s Craftsman.

Comments

Email optional, only needed to see replies.