We visited nearly 40 stores in 3 months, and the messiest of the bunch is also one of the most successful right now

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There were boxes of trash in the middle of the Urban Outfitters when we visited in June. Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider
  • We’ve visited nearly 40 stores in the last three months. The state of each store often revealed a lot about the company’s struggles as a whole.
  • Sears, Target, and the Vitamin Shoppe were some of the messiest stores we saw. But there were others as well.
  • In the worst cases, stores had merchandise on the floor, overcrowded racks, broken mannequins, and unsightly objects blocking the aisles.
  • Target was the messiest store we saw by far. But even so, the company is doing surprisingly well in terms of sales.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

It’s been a tough year for retail. The proof is in the stores.

Often, when a company is struggling internally, the effects can be observed in person. In the case of Sears and Bed Bath & Beyond, their announced store closures and drops in sales were not surprising after we saw the state of each store.

Both were punctuated by issues with organisation and cleanliness.


Read more:
We went to Kohl’s and Target and found they were both a mess. Here’s why I’d shop at Target anyway.

However, sometimes – as in the case of Target – a disorganized and chaotic store environment isn’t symptomatic of larger struggles for the company. For example, we visited a Manhattan Target in August and were shocked by the mess we found, but the company beat expectations in the second quarter of 2019 and reported a 3.4% growth in comparable sales.

From Urban Outfitters to Sears, here are the top seven messiest stores we’ve seen so far.


Urban Outfitters — We visited Manhattan Urban Outfitters in June and were surprised by the mess we encountered.

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Read more:
We shopped at American Eagle and Urban Outfitters to see why one teen retailer is outperforming the other. The answer was clear.


Even though Urban Outfitters was meant to look as if it was in the middle of construction, is some places, the theme was a little too real.

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We saw a wall being painted right before our eyes while we shopped.

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We also saw a shelf in the process of being constructed in the middle of the sale section.

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Construction aside, mess lurked from every corner in the store. We saw cardboard boxes and empty clothing racks …

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… as well as plastic bins overflowing with clothes …

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Near the top of the stairs, we found a few distracting boxes labelled “trash.”

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We found even more boxes throughout the rest of the store.

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The fitting room downstairs was closed, but it was similarly messy.

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Kohl’s — The department store has a huge following. We visited a store in a Jersey City, New Jersey mall.

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Read more:
We shopped at Kohl’s and JCPenney and both had real issues. Here’s why I’d rather shop at Kohl’s anyway.


The store was fine until we made it to the kid’s clearance section, where we found racks overflowing with clothes in the shopping space.

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We were shocked to find clothes and hangers on the floor.

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There was also a table with a pile of shoes that looked about ready to topple over.

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In the aisles, we saw a few carts carrying merchandise and taking up valuable walking space.

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JCPenney — Like Kohl’s, we visited a JCPenney in a Jersey City, New Jersey mall.

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This stack of Nike shoes looked precarious, but it wasn’t too unsightly.

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As we walked around the store, we found some areas with empty shelves.

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The toy section had a great, yet unorganized selection of plush Disney character dolls.

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Perhaps most disconcerting, we found a mannequin near the clearance section that appeared to have its hands severed.

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And in the home-goods section, we found some items scattered on the floor beside another strange-looking mannequin.

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Sears — To get to the last Sears located in New York, we headed to the Flatbush neighbourhood in Brooklyn, New York.

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Read more:
We shopped at Sears and Kohl’s and both were overwhelmingly messy. Here’s why Kohl’s is still better to shop at.


The store was completely overcrowded with racks upon racks of clothes and many pieces were on sale.

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Like in JCPenney, some mannequins here were also missing important appendages.

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Mess was apparent all throughout Sears. The accessories section was pretty disturbing and featured dozens of items bursting from white cardboard boxes.

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In the women’s section, we found a lone fan on the floor.

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And in the men’s section, we found this back-to-school sign sadly laying on its side.

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Some of the signs had prices written by hand, which gave the store an unprofessional feeling.

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Upstairs in the home section, we found an almost completely empty corner.

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The story was different in the intimates section, which was almost too cluttered to navigate.

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The kid’s shoes section was also filled with mess and clutter.

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Bed Bath & Beyond — We visited a location in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighbourhood.

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Read more:
We went shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond and saw why the company is plotting a turnaround


Bed Bath & Beyond is infamous for its overstocked displays and massive shelves.

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At first, the main issue with the store seemed to be the overwhelming clutter. We also saw some wires protruding from the ceilings throughout the store.

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Though in some areas, the shelves were almost completely empty.

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The outdoor furniture section was completely disorganized …

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… and nearby, we found an open can of LaCroix.

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The aisles in the store were punctuated by rows of shopping carts that took up valuable walking space.

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And it wasn’t rare to find sections that were overrun with piles of what seemed like garbage and miscellaneous items.

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Read more:
We went shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond and saw why the company is plotting a turnaround


Elsewhere, we found a frame for sale that was completely covered in dust.

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The Vitamin Shoppe — We stopped by a location on a busy corner in Manhattan’s Financial District.

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Read more:
We shopped at GNC and Vitamin Shoppe to see which supplement store is better. The difference was surprisingly stark.


The store was relatively small, but there was still plenty of mess to be found.

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These cardboard boxes were taking up some valuable space at the front of the store.

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And elsewhere, we found some more boxes that appeared to be filled with merchandise.

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There were some plastic boxes taking up space as well.

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It was disconcerting when we found a large blue bag of what appeared to be trash in the back of the store.

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The store also seemed to be having issues with its air conditioning, so we found this massive, unsightly unit in the middle of an aisle.

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This made for a cramped and strange-looking display in the middle of the store.

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Target — We visited a Target in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighbourhood in New York City.

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Read more:
We went to Kohl’s and Target and found they were both a mess. Here’s why I’d shop at Target anyway.


A loft area on the first floor was in the process of being restocked, so it was naturally messier than usual.

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This area had a lot of empty shelves and boxes of merchandise waiting to be unloaded.

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Downstairs, the mess was even worse. An employee told us that this was normal for the store.

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In many cases, it looked like items were being restocked on the shelves.

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The mess permeated almost every department on this floor, from clothes to groceries.

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The grocery section was particularly appalling. Garbage appeared to be strewn across the floor.

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And in the back of the store, an even more daunting mess awaited. Though we saw a lot of messy stores, Target was by far the messiest and most disconcerting of them all. Surprisingly, it was also one of the stores doing the best in terms of sales.

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