We visited dozens of stores this year, and these were the messiest by far

Business Insider/Jessica TylerWe visited a lot of messy stores in 2018.
  • 2018 was a rough year for some retailers, and the state of their stores reflected that.
  • Sears,JCPenney, and the now-defunct Toys R Us are among the retailers that struggled the most. They also had some pretty disorganized stores.
  • These were the messiest stores we visited in 2018.

2018 was a rough year for some retailers.

Toys R Us closed for good in the United States, Sears filed for bankruptcy, and countless other stores saw their sales numbers continue to decline.

There are a number of reasons that so many stores had a difficult year. Toys R Us was forced to liquidate because it was unable to sustain its debt load after a leveraged buyout in 2005. According to a filing with the bankruptcy court, Toys R Us had still been making $US400 million payments on its debt every year.

Department stores, in particular, have been struggling because of declining foot traffic to malls and a disappearing middle class. Sears, JCPenney, Lord & Taylor, and Macy’s have all closed stores in the past year, and in October, Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Sears has been closing stores and selling off assets following years of crippling sales declines.

The rise of e-commerce has also played a role in the downfall of some retailers that are struggling to keep up with the likes of Amazon. And while many stores have been working on improving their strategies to compete, it hasn’t always been enough. Even on Black Friday, traditionally one of the biggest shopping days of the year, stores were relatively empty.

All of these factors have been causing brick-and-mortar stores to struggle. During our visits to stores this year, we found that some had empty shelves and no shoppers, some were so crowded with inventory that they were hard to navigate, and others were a complete mess.

Of the dozens of stores we visited in 2018, these were in the worst shape:


A New York City JCPenney was cluttered and disorganized when we visited over the summer. In November, JCPenney reported that comparable sales had dropped 5.4% in the most recent quarter.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler


Read more:


We went shopping at Macy’s and JCPenney to see which was a better department store, and the winner was clear


The lines were very long, the lights were flickering, and sale signs were everywhere.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Lord & Taylor recently closed its flagship store on New York’s Fifth Avenue after more than 100 years in business. When we visited the store before it closed, it was in sad shape.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler


Read more:
We went shopping at one of New York City’s most famous department stores as it prepares to close for good. Here’s what it was like.


Parent company Hudson’s Bay, which also owns Saks Fifth Avenue, said it expected to close up to 10 of its nearly 50 Lord & Taylor locations through 2019. When we visited the flagship, we were surprised by how messy it was. There were clothes everywhere.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The flagship looked more like a discount store than a high-end retailer.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

We visited several Toys R Us stores in New York before the chain closed its doors for good over the summer.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler


Read more:
We visited 3 Toys R Us stores that are about to shut down – and it was a depressing look at a business at its end


At each store, we found there were empty shelves and displays …

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… and boxes of merchandise piled up everywhere.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

It was to be expected from stores that were in their final days.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

This Babies R Us store was also in bad shape just a few days before it closed. On the first floor were half-empty shelves with remaining merchandise.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler


Read more:
We visited a Babies R Us store that’s about to shut down – and it was a mess


The second floor of the store was completely empty by the time we visited it.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

And the third floor was selling store fixtures like tables, shelving, and baby mannequins. It was very strange.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Sears filed for bankruptcy in October, and when we visited a store in Jersey City, New Jersey, it felt like a ghost town.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler


Read more:
We visited a Sears store on the day the company filed for bankruptcy, and it felt like a ghost town. Here’s what it was like shopping there.


There were no shoppers in the store, and many of the displays were lacklustre.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

We found some strange things, too, like a pile of bricks sitting in the middle of the store …

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… and boxes of merchandise left throughout.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

This New York Kmart, also owned by Sears Holdings, was in worse shape than Sears, even before the company filed for bankruptcy.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler


Read more:
We went to a Kmart store and saw why the company is in danger of shutting down


We visited the same Kmart store multiple times throughout the year, and each time we found things like peeling-up floorboards …

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler


Read more:
We visited a Kmart store the day after Sears filed for bankruptcy, and it was a mess. Here’s what it was like shopping there.


… damaged products for sale …

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… tons of clutter …

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… and even a gross bucket left sitting in an aisle.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

There were several factors playing into these stores’ struggles, but Kmart was in the worst shape by far.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.