Devastating Photos of Dying Sears and Kmart Stores

Sears store having its store closing sale

Sundry Photography/istockphoto

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Michael Lisicky

Racks in Ruins

Not long ago, the slow-motion decay of Sears and Kmart would have been unthinkable. But the chains have been shuttering stores for years. 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."  Photos of aging Sears and Kmart stores offer a glimpse into the collapse of the two retail empires, including those shot inside the ill-fated Frederick Sears.

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Michael Lisicky

Another One Bites the Dust

A parking lot marred by trash recently greeted the few shoppers who still came to the Kmart in Avenel, New Jersey. Avenel's Kmart just closed, leaving only 12 open stores, three of them in the Virgin Islands. That's down from 2,400 in the '90s. "I have been rooting for Kmart to make it to 2022 and it did, well, kind of," Lisicky says. "Kmart is America’s discounting pioneer and it turns 60 years old in 2022. But it’s hardly the Kmart of the glory days, when the company carried furs, fixed cars, and sold mortgages, clothing, candy, and toys." 

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

Kmart carts
Michael Lisicky
Kmart humidifiers
Michael Lisicky

Want a Humidifier?

Kmart shoppers could find the familiar Kenmore name at the Avenel store, though not in the way they might expect. "Every remaining Sears or Kmart still has an ample supply of Kenmore humidifiers, and not much else of the Kenmore brand," Lisicky says. Also up for grabs: one lonely artificial Christmas tree for 90% off.

Avenel Sears
Michael Lisicky

No Quick Fixes

A water-damaged ceiling at the Kmart in Avenel foreshadowed the store's demise. "Walking though one of these Kmarts is almost like seeing a ghost or being in dream," Lisicky says. "It’s just bizarre."

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 said the stores would combine 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."

Kmart fixtures
Michael Lisicky

Fixtures for Sale

A still-open Kmart in Miami, Florida, wasn't just selling merchandise — it was selling fixtures like store shelves. "If that isn’t a kiss of death for an ongoing business, I don’t know what is," Lisicky says. 

Minneapolis Kmart
Michael Lisicky

A Chaotic End

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. 

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. "There are also announcements reminding you of safety protocols, including distancing, due to COVID," Lisicky says. "That part is surreal."

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."

Michael Lisicky

Where Is Everybody?

This Sears in Frederick, Maryland, was one of just 16 main stores that remained open in 2022 by Lisicky's count, though it has been announced that it too will be closed by January 2023. By the looks of the barren parking lot, shown during normal shopping hours, it's not a surprising development.

Searstown Fort Lauderdale
Michael Lisicky

Searstown, Population 0

A "We Are Open" sign beckons shoppers who might think otherwise to this Sears in Fort Lauderdale. Sadly, that's no longer true — the store closed in January 2022. It was the last remaining Searstown, which combined a Sears department store with a service station, a grocery store, a barber shop, a restaurant, and more in an effort to provide one-stop shopping. Only about 12 Searstowns were ever built, Lisicky says.

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. Sears has been troubled for decades, Lisicky says. "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."

Moorestown Sears
Michael Lisicky

Appliance King No More

A lonely washer-and-dryer set awaits an owner at a now-closed Sears in Moorestown, New Jersey. Sears sold its first Kenmore washing machine in 1927 and would go on to dominate the consumer-appliance market for decades. 

Sears Kenmore
Michael Lisicky

Coming Soon?

What once was a wall full of Kenmore ovens at the Frederick store instead promises "new models" that are not going to arrive anytime soon, given its imminent closing.

White Marsh Sears
Michael Lisicky

Devoid of Toys

An almost-bare toy section at a now-closed Sears in White Marsh Mall near Baltimore was a particularly sad sight during the holidays. In a true sign of the times, Amazon later leased the location's parking lot for its delivery vans and trucks. 

Sears Covid clinic
Michael Lisicky

Old Store, New Purpose

The closed White Marsh Sears was pressed into service as a COVID-19 testing site — though a handwritten sign warns visitors that it's out of test kits. 

Abandoned Brooklyn Sears
Michael Lisicky

A Brooklyn Landmark

New York City recently lost its last Sears with the closing of this Brooklyn store in 2022. Housed in an Art Deco building with a 100-foot tower, the location had been in business since 1932. Eleanor Roosevelt cut the ribbon when it opened, Lisicky says.

Sears no restrooms
Michael Lisicky

Warning Signs

A smaller Sears Appliance and Mattress store remains open inside the husk of a former full-size Sears in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. Just don't expect to get a COVID-19 test or use the restroom, signs on the doors warn. 

Jersey City Sears
Michael Lisicky

Still Open — But for How Long?

A water-damaged ceiling and aisles devoid of shoppers didn't exactly exude the holiday spirit at a Sears in Jersey City, New Jersey, one of the few that remain open. 

Harrisburg Sears
Michael Lisicky

Going Out of Business (Again)

A liquidation at a 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.

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.

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. 

Sears leaky ceiling
Michael Lisicky

… and Don't Look Up

This still-open Sears in Coral Gables, Florida, is one of the company's strongest performers, Lisicky says. The main level is clean and well-maintained, but a leaky ceiling on the second floor tells a different story. 

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, where they may have a better shot of finding something — anything — to buy. 

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.