Sunday, February 28, 2021

Kmart - Vero Beach, FL - The Klosing Begins

Kmart #7294
1501 US Highway 1, Vero Beach, FL - Indian River Plaza

     The time has come once again to post another installment in my Vero Beach Kmart closing, or should I say, "klosing", series. Today's post marks the second of my five installments in this series, the pervious post being a brief recap of this store prior to the actual liquidation beginning. While last time we visited Kmart's "old fashioned garage sale", today we jump into the beginning of another one of Kmart's old fashioned closing sales...

     Oddly enough (and completely coincidental), I found the motivation to write this second installment in my Vero Beach Kmart closing series just as news broke about the closure of the Sears store in Merritt Island - the second to last holdout of Sears Holdings-owned stores in Central Florida. The most recent Sears/Kmart closure wave in February 2021 brings the presence of full-line Sears stores to 4 in Florida (Florida Mall in Orlando, Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens, and freestanding stores in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Gables) and 28 Sears stores total in the entire country. On the Kmart side it's just as depressing - Florida manages to retain an impressive 4 Kmarts as of early 2021 (Miami, Key Largo, Marathon, and Key West), with 25 total Kmart stores left in the entire country. Oh how the mighty have fallen, and I don't even know how operating so few stores randomly scattered around the country is even sustainable anymore, but's that's the mysterious saga of Sears and Kmart for you. That aside, let's take this time to head back to September 2019 to visit East Central Florida's last Kmart store, as its liquidation began:

     My usual circuit around the Vero Beach Kmart involved stepping through the front doors and turning right, which would have given us this view of the front aisle. In addition to the usual scenery, those attention-grabbing percent-off signs have now multiplied throughout the store. With the yellow and red signs up, we just need to throw some shoes on the floor and we can officially say the liquidation party has started...

     These photos were taken on September 19, 2019, only a week or so into the actual liquidation. Since it was so early in the process, the store still appeared fully stocked and normal, as long as you paid no mind to the percent-off signs plastered all over the place. 

     A small amount of merchandise had cleared out here in the automotive/cleaning supplies aisle, although at only 10% off, the rush to clear the shelves had not gone into full swing yet.

     One of the grocery aisles.

     Well...I guess there was a change in plans. Over the next few weeks the grocery, pet, and household departments were going to take on an entirely new look, but probably not in the way this sign intended that to be...

     Being September, Halloween merchandise was stocked in part of the seasonal department. It looked like most of the Halloween stuff had just been put out, as it was still neatly organized within the aisles.

     While part of the seasonal department had already transitioned to Halloween, the large seasonal pad in the front right corner of the store was fully stocked with patio furniture. Once Halloween passed, the patio furniture would get consolidated to the shelves along the wall, with the pad becoming Kmart's Christmas Wonderland. As you can guess - that wasn't happening again once the patio furniture sold out this time.

     As usual with a liquidation, pallets of overstock were being brought out of the backroom and placed on the salesfloor, just like those grills we see in the middle of the aisle.

     At 25% off, the discount on toys was one of the better deals in the store this early in the liquidation.

     From the back right corner, here's a look down the right side of the building. Seasonal resides at the end of the aisle in front of me, with toys and then sporting goods comprising the departments to my left.

     As the closing continued, merchandise in the back right corner (where I'm standing now) would begin to consolidate closer to the front, with the back of the store clearing out for fixture sales.

     Continuing along with our loop around the store, here's a look across the back aisle, nearing the electro-pli-mattress department.

     While Kmart's electronics department shriveled into practically nothing going into the late 2010's, the Vero Beach store maintained this half-aisle of phone cases, cables, and some other gadgets until the end (including at least one TV). However, whether that TV was new stock or had been sitting around since the days Kmart widely sold TVs, that's still up for debate.

     In addition to the accessories, the electronics department also contained a half-aisle of random DVDs, rounding out the electronics merchandise. Unlike the closure of the Palm Bay Kmart, I never spotted any VHS tapes sneaking their way onto these shelves as the backrooms were cleared out in Vero Beach.

     Even though the electronics department had shrunk its way into one aisle total of merchandise (compared to this scene back in 2015), this store never bothered to remove its old electronics register. Now randomly placed in the middle of the men's clothing department, this register was still active into the early days of the closing - apparently used to take layaway payments according to a sign I saw (even though there was a separate layaway register down a hallway behind me).

     Speaking of Layaway, this photo captures a side view of the signage and hallway leading to that department. The layaway hallway used to be in the back of the electronics department, although men's clothing gradually expanded into the electronics space as that department gradually shrunk. 

     Here's a more pulled back view of the layaway hallway and signage, as seen from the edge of the main aisle.

     If you look closely at the floor under the clothing racks, you can see the faint scars left behind by the removal of the electronics aisles.

     The center aisle seen here was looking more like a stereotypical closing scene, with emptying shelves and extra yellow and red signs hanging above the aisle.

     Continuing our way into the left side of the building, we find ourselves immersed in the clothing departments. Men's clothing is located to my right on the back wall, followed by boy's clothing as you head closer into the corner. Team spirit shirts are located to my left, with women's clothing occupying the center portion of the clothing department beyond that, behind the shoes.

     I see some conflicting messages here - everything is 10%-30% off according to the yellow sign, yet those signs on the racks below say 60% off. I guess the bargains were getting off to a stranger start than expected!

     Getting closer to the front of the store, the bargains continue to follow us as we near the doors. However, we're not quite done with our walk around the store just yet, so we'll cut back through the middle of the clothing department:

     There was certainly no shortage of clothing to be found here, as this aisle was stocked full of it (at 60% off again too - Kmart must have really wanted to get rid of all the excess clothes quickly). Buried somewhere behind all those racks of clothes was the women's clothing department, with shoes to my right.

     Here's one last look across the back of the store, with electro-pli-mattresses in the distance.

     Turning the corner, here's a look down the left side of the store. To my right was infant clothing, followed by girl's clothing.

     Jumping to the front of the store, here's a reverse view of the previous photo.

     As we've seen before, the long-closed KCafe at the Vero Beach Kmart was turned into the junior's clothing department. Here's a peek inside the old cafe space, which was kept mostly original even as the chairs and tables made way for racks of clothes.

     As we finish our stroll through the store, here's a look across the front end, the exit slightly obstructed by all the displays at the top right corner of the photo.

     Between the customer service desk and the front check lanes was a small area, usually used to display seasonal merchandise or other products on promotion. Like most of the remaining Kmarts in the late 2010's, this store got a Kmart pop-up canopy that matched the era's "Love Where You Live" marketing campaign (with that slogan printed on top of the canopy). While this store's fixture sales crew ended up being sticklers on the "we don't sell anything with a logo on it" rule - someone did manage to by this canopy, and that happened pretty early on in the liquidation too (by the time of my next visit, if I recall correctly). I don't know what kind of persuasive tactics that person used to snag this canopy, but I wish I knew their trick! It would have came in handy when I asked about buying one of these:

     This store had quite the eclectic assortment of handbaskets - from new ones to old ones to plain ones. I did ask if the baskets were for sale during one of my visits, which is when the manager gave me the usual speech about how they couldn't sell anything with the logo on it. (Although per Cape Kennedy Retail, the manager he spoke with during one of his visits seemed to hint that a deal for a handbasket could have been made on the store's last day, but unfortunately, neither of us made it down here to cover the store's last day to see if that could have been true).

     That's all I have to share with you guys as we wrap up my second installment in the Vero Beach Kmart closing series. In my next installment of this series things will begin to look more like a closing sale - more emptiness, more discounts, and possibly a few more shoes on the floor. At some point we'll get to that, but for now, I hope everyone enjoyed this post, with plenty more to come on My Florida Retail soon!

So until the next post,



  1. One thing that recently entered my mind was how depressing it must have been to work at a Kmart in the last 5 years. Its gotta be demotivating to work inside a large store with so few customers coming in and a few not buying anything at all!

    Then again, if given the choice personally, I'd rather work at a Kmart that's on the verge of closing than a package Wal-Mart on any day! At least Kmart would be peaceful retail.

    I sure enjoyed my visit to the Manatee Ave Kmart in Bradenton in 2017. I totally missed the closing of that store since it was so far away. Did that one close in 2019?

    1. Yeah, I’m sure it was/is pretty depressing, factoring that in with the job security issues Kmart (and Sears) employees face nearly every day, fearing their store’s day with fate will be coming soon. However, many retail employees would probably love going to work and not having to deal with a lot of (potentially grouchy) customers all day, so maybe that could be spun into a good thing (even if that’s not good for the store’s health overall). Working at Walmart is certainly a much different atmosphere than working at Kmart!

      The Bradenton Kmart closed in February 2020, in the wave of closures following the one the Vero Beach store was in. The old Bradenton Kmart is currently in the process of getting converted into the town’s second Target store, so at least the building is getting a fitting reuse.

    2. Oh that's cool! I didnt realize Target was opening a store at that location. It's amazing how well Target did during the dreaded 2020 Year of Covid. I can't think of any areas offhand where Walmart is opening a new store; they have peaked, I believe.

      I wonder what is going on at the site of where 4354 was across the street? Lucky's was supposed to be a shoe in for that spot, but the walls came tumbling down on Lucky's.

  2. Sears and Kmart seem to have an abundance of operating stores in Florida compared to most of the rest of the US. Here in Texas, I think Sears is down to maybe just one full-line store out in West Texas and one in Mesquite (Dallas area) that is liquidating. Kmart has been completely out of Texas for over a year now. Our last Sears store in the Houston area closed just a couple of months ago. In reality, all reports are that the inventory at operating Sears and Kmart stores are really, really bad and that some of these stores have practically nothing left to sell.

    I've heard rumors that TransformHoldCo (or whatever they're going by these days) can only afford to liquidate about 7 stores at a time and so we may see the rest of the chain liquidate away with about 7 stores every 2-3 months.

    I'm always surprised to hear that some of you have had such problems getting fixtures with the Sears/Kmart logos on them because all reports are that the liquidators here in Texas are much more flexible. I was recently gifted a 1990s Kmart handbasket (like the grey one in your photo) and a black Sears handbasket by a local retail enthusiast who visited various klosing sales in this area and who had no problem buying this stuff. The Sears basket is actually a The Great Indoors basket with a Sears logo taped over the TGI logo. It actually looks pretty credible until you do a close examination, lol. I use the Kmart basket to hold at least part of my collection of vintage sealed, blank VHS tapes. Some of those still have vintage retail price tags on them including some pre-1990 Kmart logos.

    Je of the Louisiana & Texas Retail Blog recently made a post about his coverage of the Lake Charles, LA Kmart klosing sale. That Kmart was in the same shopping center as an Albertsons which is still around. I did some research and the Albertsons has the rarely seen Albertsons Heritage Decor that looks really nice. If you go through the comments on his blog post, you'll see that I have a link to an Albertsons in Lafayette, LA which has more in-depth photos of the Heritage Decor on Google. The Lake Charles Albertsons has a logo fail where an Albertsons logo was put up with reversed colors, lol. You'll be interested in seeing that I'm sure!

    Blog post:

    Albertsons reversed colors:

    This is not related to a Kmart klosing, but someone recently uploaded a video to YouTube of a tape Montgomery Ward sent to customers in 1999 who lived near some of their then-renovated stores which were having a grand re-opening. The short video shows a lot of the decor Wards was using at the time. It's well worth seeing and is a nice accessory to those great indoor shots from 1986 of the Tallahassee Montgomery Ward that an employee took at the time. If you have not seen those, you should look them up on YouTube. Here's the link to the 1999 video:

    As you can see, and this is my memory as well, Wards was trying much harder in their last few years than Sears did (I already speak of Sears in the past tense, lol). In some ways, that Wards looks more modern than a current Sears!

    1. Oh, here is one more great old retail video if I may share it here. We've discussed Best Products before and I know they had a couple of SITE stores in South Florida with memorable designs. Anyway, here is a video produced by Best Products in 1990 showing the interior of their stores. Specifically, it discusses the differences between their 'Regency' layout and their 'Store of Tomorrow' layout. The latter uses a racetrack design and the former uses a more departmentalized layout. Several pros and cons for each design are mentioned in the video.

      The 'Regency' layout has an enclosed stereo room that is quite similar to what Kmart had in their older stores back in the day before they were walled off. This Vero Beach store probably had such a room. Kmart used them more for TVs than stereos if I remember correctly, but they might have had stereos in there as well. Kmart wasn't exactly a great place to buy stereo equipment, lol. Best Products was certainly a better place for that. Fortunately, McDuff and Best Products were both across the street from my local 'mansard slice' style Kmart like this Vero Beach location, lol.

      The video is a bit long at about 12 minutes, but this is vintage retail gold as far as I'm concerned. It's great seeing detailed shots of the inside of Best Products stores and seeing the vintage electronics they were selling in 1990.


    2. With 8 stores between Sears and Kmart, Florida is home to nearly 20% of what operational stores are left in the entire company! (Which is a strange thing to think about). 7 of those 8 stores are in South Florida, the lone outlier being the Sears at the super busy Florida Mall in Orlando. I’ve heard the remaining Kmart stores were looking quite horrible in terms of product for sale over the last year (with portions of the store getting blocked off with shelves), although Sears seems to be fairing just a tiny bit better. My local Sears in Merritt Island (which just began liquidating) was still decently stocked in every department except hardware of late, the hardware department looking really barren over the last year. Clothing and appliances were very well-stocked though. I’m not surprised if the only reason the demise of Sears and Kmart gets prolonged any more is because TransformCo can only afford to liquidate small batches of stores at a time. If that’s the case, that’s such a sad reason to end the sad saga of Sears and Kmart on.

      When the Sears in Melbourne was liquidating, the people running that sale could have cared less if the logo was anything – they were selling me any fixture I picked up (most of which they were putting a price of 25 cents on – they really wanted to get rid of everything!). That liquidation was one of the best experiences I’ve had with fixture sales, although how caring the fixture people are about the rules seems to be really hit or miss around here. I always have the worst luck trying to get one of those Kmart baskets, but maybe one of these days my luck will change!

      I’ve been a fan of Albertsons’ recent décor packages, both Legacy and Heritage (although I do agree, Heritage is much nicer). It’s s shame none of those packages ever made it to Florida, but by the time either of them came out, Albertsons was so far gone here a fancy full remodel would have never been justifiable (well, until the strange Safeway conversion situation, which I still can’t figure out). The logo at the Lake Charles store is hard to look at, as it’s really weird seeing the colors flipped like that!

      That Montgomery Ward video was a good find! I never lived near a Ward’s store, so I never got to experience one before the chain disappeared, so it’s interesting seeing inside one of their stores. Even though Ward’s would ultimately fail, at least they tried, which is about all you can ask for sometimes. Sears was essentially left to die, which is the worst part, as I feel if a company dies trying that’s better than seeing they did nothing at all to address their problems. And I have to agree, that Ward’s featured in the video did seem more modern than many of Sears’ current stores!

      The Best products video is another good find – lots of good information in there about store design too! It’s rare to get such a detailed glimpse into that stuff. It’s was also fun seeing inside those Best stores as well – a nice glimpse into the past overall. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m pretty sure the Lantana Kmart never walled off or removed its old stereo room, as that store had a weird alcove in the back of the building I’d never seen before, and it didn’t appear to be an old cafeteria as it was small. It would be interesting to see a picture of Kmart’s TV/stereo room from the 1980’s if one of those were ever to appear online.

    3. That Kmart looks so very close to the Lufkin Texas Kmart that closed in March 2017. Lufkin had a few more upgrades to wall signage, but has a nearly identical layout. I really wish I could walk into a Kmart store, but we are over 1,000 miles from the nearest location.

      Thanks for sharing this store. It sucks that the liquidators wouldn't let you buy any baskets. I have had issues getting store signage, but I have managed to find someone willing to sell me a handbasket or several each time I tried.

    4. That's an interesting comparison. This store had some minor work done to it over the years, but still kept the early 2000's department signs until the end. My closest Kmart is about 200 miles away now (in Miami), which compared to others like yourself, isn't too far. If the Miami Kmart can stick around in some form until July, I'd like to head down there and pay that place a visit, just so I can see a living Kmart one last time. It's sad to see what the company has become.

      Glad you liked the post! I've had good luck with Sears liquidators, but not so much with the Kmart ones. Oh well. I still hold out hope I'll find a Kmart basket at an estate sale, as that's how I've acquired a few of the retail handbaskets I currently own.