Harrisburg Sears
Michael Lisicky

Devastating Photos of Dying Sears and Kmart Stores

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Alexandria Sears
Michael Lisicky

Racks in Ruins

Not long ago, the slow-motion decay of Sears and Kmart would have been unthinkable. Michael Lisicky, a retail historian, has been tracking what he calls the stores' "endless" decline. "I never thought that I would ever be drawn to document the demise of Sears and Kmart," he says. "But it became hard for me to not notice and look the other way." This could well be these iconic retailers' last holiday season, with Sears even acknowledging that it may soon sell its suburban Chicago headquarters. Here's a firsthand look at the collapse of two retail empires.

Related: Iconic Department Stores We Miss

Abandoned Brooklyn Sears
Michael Lisicky

A Brooklyn Landmark

New York City recently lost its last Sears with the November closing of this store in Brooklyn. Housed in an Art Deco building with a 100-foot tower, the location had been in business since 1932. "Eleanor Roosevelt cut the ribbon to the Brooklyn store," Lisicky says. He adds that the store's parking lot was unusually large for an urban area, and it "initially catered to Long Islanders who drove into Brooklyn for their commercial needs." 

Related: These Catalogs Defined Shopping for Generations — and Now They're Mostly Gone

White Marsh Sears
Michael Lisicky
Jersey City Sears
Michael Lisicky

Still Open — But for How Long?

A water-damaged ceiling and aisles devoid of shoppers don't exactly exude the holiday spirit at a Sears in Jersey City, New Jersey, one of the few that remain open. Lisicky says most people don't realize that any Sears or Kmart stores are still open (16 Sears stores and six Kmarts, respectively, by his count). "People wonder why it’s still open in any form. Unfortunately, there really aren't any publicly stated answers. ... It makes no sense."

Related: Big-Name Stores We've Lost in the Past Decade

Moorestown Sears
Michael Lisicky
Harrisburg Sears
Michael Lisicky

Going Out of Business (Again)

A liquidation at a recently closed Sears in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's Colonial Park Mall didn't attract many deal hunters. Sears has suffered the same fate as the malls it historically anchored, hemorrhaging would-be shoppers to big-box stores like Walmart and online retailers including Amazon.

Related: How to Score at Going-Out-of-Business Sales at Stores Like Sears and Kmart

Glenburnie Sears
Michael Lisicky

Lands' End Lives On

Slim pickings remain at a now-closed Sears in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Lands' End became a subsidiary of Sears in 2002 but was spun off in 2014. Its apparel remained in Sears until 2019, but Lands' End saw the writing on the wall and found a new partner: Kohl's.

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Baltimore Sears
Michael Lisicky

'Dull, Lifeless, Neglected'

A corner of a now-closed Sears in suburban Baltimore's Security Square Mall offers a sparse assortment of furniture and luggage. Lisicky points out that Sears has been troubled for decades. "By the 1980s, Sears acted more as a financial institution than America’s largest retailer," he says. "The company became less focused on Craftsman tools and more interested on its Allstate, Coldwell Banker, Dean Witter Reynolds, Discover Card and other financial service brands. Its stores became dull, lifeless, and neglected."

White Oak Sears
Michael Lisicky

Don't Look Down

Lots of merchandise gives the appearance of business as usual at a now-closed Sears in Silver Spring, Maryland's White Oak Shopping Center, but look closely: The first floor is bare, with the escalator blocked off. 

White Oak Sears
Michael Lisicky

Anyone Need an Iron?

Irons and a steamer were among the few items that remained at the White Oak Sears.

Brunswick Sears
Michael Lisicky

Nothing to See Here

Box-like signs serve two purposes at a now-closed Sears in Brunswick, Maine: They fill empty space, and encourage shoppers to head to Sears.com, where they may have a better shot of finding something — anything — to buy. 

Related: 20 Products You Should Always Buy Online

Minneapolis Kmart
Michael Lisicky

A Sad End for Kmart

A sparsely used parking lot at a now-closed Minneapolis Kmart foreshadows hard times to come. The store, which was already liquidating when the city erupted in protests after the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, was subsequently looted and damaged, Lisicky says. After it was boarded up, it was painted with murals calling for healing, and salvageable merchandise was donated to charity. 

Essex Kmart
Michael Lisicky

'Picked Apart Like a Turkey'

A chaotic assortment of food and home goods greets shoppers at a now-closed Kmart in Essex, Maryland. Sears and Kmart announced they would merge in late 2004, but the decision "merely merged two battered retailers into one large, troubled organization, and it’s been failing ever since," Lisicky says. "Its current leadership has picked apart the business like a Thanksgiving turkey. There hasn’t been a business strategy for years."

Related: Stores and Brands You Thought Were Dead But Aren't

Columbia Kmart
Michael Lisicky

6 Feet Apart? Not a Problem

A sign urges social distancing during a liquidation sale at a now-closed Kmart in Columbia, Pennsylvania, but it doesn't look like the 6-foot rule was a problem. Some former Sears and Kmart stores did find a temporary new purpose as pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinics earlier in the pandemic.

Silver Spring Kmart
Michael Lisicky

Attention, Kmart ... Shopper

Red signs, not blue lights, beckon shoppers for deals at a now-closed Kmart in Silver Spring, Maryland. The blue-light special and its accompanying catchphrase, "Attention, Kmart shoppers ..." became a pop-culture touchstone during the discounter's heyday. 

Willow Street Kmart
Michael Lisicky

Having Fun Yet?

Several years ago, Kmart introduced new T-shirts for its employees, seen here at the now-closed Willow Street store near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in an effort to "bring the fun back to the shopping experience." Look closely and you'll note one T-shirt joking that the store is a "one-stop zombie apocalypse shop."

Avenel Sears
Michael Lisicky

Time Is Ticking

A water-damaged ceiling at a Kmart in Avenel, New Jersey, is unlikely to see repairs anytime soon, even though the Avenel location is one of the few Kmarts still open.