These haunting photos of the retail apocalypse reveal a new normal in America as Sears reportedly prepares for bankruptcy

Business Insider/Jessica TylerToys R Us announced in March that it would close or sell all 735 of its stores in the United States.

The retail apocalypse has descended on America.

More than 3,800 stores are expected to close across the country this year. Department stores like Macy’s, Sears, and JCPenney, and retailers including Toys R Us, BCBG, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Bebe have decided to close dozens of stores.

Now, Sears could be set to file for bankruptcy as soon as this week, The Wall Street Journal reports. According to people with knowledge of the situation, the struggling retailer has hired M-III Partners to put together a bankruptcy filing.

Sears isn’t the only company that is struggling to adjust to the rise of e-commerce and the fall of foot traffic. With vacancy rates continuing to rise, walking through a mall in 2018 is like walking through a graveyard.

Here’s photographic evidence that a retail apocalypse is hitting the United States hard:


Perhaps most emblematic of the retail apocalypse are photos of dead malls.


As customers increasingly shop online, malls are suffering the consequences.


Visits to malls declined by 50% from 2010 to 2013, according to the real-estate research firm Cushman & Wakefield.


In the nearly two years since it closed, Chicago’s Lincoln Mall has transformed from a vibrant shopping center into an eerie, deserted wasteland.

Seph Lawless

The mall closed after many retailers — including Sears — shuttered their locations inside the shopping center.

Seph Lawless

Photographer Seph Lawless documents abandoned and forgotten malls across the United States.


While abandoned malls are spooky, shopping centres in their death throes are scary in a different way.


Regency Square Mall in Richmond, Virginia, is still open, but numerous storefronts have gone dark as retailers have closed their stores.

Business Insider/Hayley Peterson

The mall’s operators have attempted to cover up the closings by installing vending machines in boarded-up walls.

Business Insider/Hayley Peterson

The mall seems almost as empty as the closed malls.

Business Insider/Hayley Peterson

Roughly a third of shopping malls are at risk of dying off as a result of store closings, according to data from Green Street Advisors. When a mall loses an anchor store, like Sears, it can be nearly impossible to survive.

Business Insider/Hayley Peterson

Source: Business Insider


Retailers are struggling to maintain some semblance of normality as sales slump.

Business Insider/Sarah Jacobs

Sears has been hit with both plummeting sales and dwindling inventory, as seen in this empty area of a store in Richmond, Virginia.

Business Insider/Hayley Peterson

Source: Business Insider


Kmart, which merged with Sears in 2005, has been criticised for its disorganized stores.

Business Insider/Hayley Peterson

Some shoppers say Kmart’s rough setup is “depressing.”

Business Insider/Hayley Peterson

At one store in Hillsboro, Ohio, Kmart hung white sheets to hide the area where the grocery section once was.

Mark Schmidt

Source: Business Insider


Sears has cut its store count down to 866 as of September 13, down from 1,980 stores in 2013.

Business Insider/Hayley Peterson

Source: Business Insider


The fate of Sears Canada could offer a dark glimpse into what might happen next. The retailer began liquidating its assets in October 2017, resulting in apocalyptic scenes in stores.


See more photos of Sears clearance stores in Canada »


Sears quietly announced its most recent round of store closures earlier this October, with plans to shutter at least seven Sears stores and five Kmart stores ahead of the holidays.

Source: Business Insider


The financial struggles of Macy’s are similarly apparent in its disheveled appearance.


A July 2016 visit to the flagship Macy’s store in Manhattan revealed messy shelves and lots of sales.

Mallory Schlossberg/Business Insider

It’s difficult to convince shoppers that this apparel is high-quality when it’s presented so haphazardly.

Mallory Schlossberg/Business Insider

Still, the Manhattan Macy’s is better than the scene at Minneapolis’ Nicollet Mall location days before it closed.


Macy’s has announced plans to close at least 11 locations in 2018.


A visit to a Manhattan JCPenney in 2017 revealed similar disorganization.

Joe Avella

In addition to clothes thrown on the floor, packaging was damaged and opened.

Joe Avella

JCPenney closed 138 stores in 2017 and has announced plans to close eight more this year.

Joe Avella

Source: Business Insider


A visit to a Manhattan JCPenney store this May revealed a similar scene.

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury


See more photos of JCPenney »


The sheer volume of clothing was shocking.

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

Jill Soltau, the former president and CEO of craft retailer Joann Stores, is set to take over as CEO of JCPenney on October 15.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

“It remains to be seen whether she has the skillset and the ability to move as quickly as she will have to in order to pull JCPenney out of the spiral that it is in,” Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia Business School and the former CEO of Sears Canada, told Business Insider of the appointment.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Source: Business Insider


Nearly everything at RadioShack was on sale as the chain prepared to close 1,430 stores in 2017.

Mary Hanbury

A store in Manhattan was covered with signs highlighting sales.

Mary Hanbury

The displays, however, seemed to be hastily set up.

Mary Hanbury

Wet Seal announced plans to close all 171 locations in early 2017.

Kirsten Acuna/Business Insider

Crocs is closing 49 locations this year after a wave of closures in 2017.

Marina Nazario/Business Insider

Claire’s, the teen jewellery and accessories retailer, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March.

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

Source: Business Insider


At the time, Claire’s announced plans to close 92 stores across the US.

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

The retailer closing the most stores in 2018 is Toys R Us.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The toy retailer has completed the process of liquidating all of its 735 US locations following an unsuccessful attempt to restructure the business through bankruptcy.

Getty/Justin Sullivan

Stores across the country put everything on clearance in an attempt to clear out inventory.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

“The stores were in a depressing state — lights were flickering, there were stacks of boxes everywhere, and empty shelves lined the walls,” Business Insider’s Jessica Tyler reported after visiting three Toys R Us locations in May.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Source: Business Insider


Shelves and fixtures were for sale in addition to the toys.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

It is a depressing downfall for the once-beloved toy retailer.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The most recent retail bankruptcy — prior to the Sears report — is Mattress Firm, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early October.

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

The retailer plans to close more than 200 locations imminently.

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

Source: Business Insider


When Business Insider’s Mary Hanbury visited Mattress Firm locations earlier this year, she reported she was struck by the lack of customers.

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

“Even with the sales and discount signs, customers didn’t seem to be biting,” Hanbury reported.

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

Source: Business Insider


A total of 14 US retailers have filed for bankruptcy or announced liquidations so far in 2018.

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

Nine West, Remington Outdoor, and The Bon-Ton Stores are among the retail companies that have filed for bankruptcy this year.


RIP, retail as we know it.

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