Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Rockport Closing, Tanger Outlets, Southaven, MS

Today's post highlights DeSoto County, MS, retail.
As we approach three years since the date of this event, now is probably as good a time as any to finally dust off my photos of the liquidation sale at the Southaven, MS, Rockport shoe store. Part of the Tanger Outlet mall in Southaven, this Rockport location closed in July 2018 alongside the entire chain. Rockport-brand shoes are still made, but now are only sold online and in non-proprietary brick-and-mortar stores.

Beginning with some looks at the façade of the store. Pretty generic Tanger storefront. If you look closely, you'll see Wilsons Leather and Bass were Rockport's neighbors. Both of those have since closed up shop, too. But that's a post for another day...

As we enter the store, the above two pictures take a look immediately to the right and straight ahead toward the back, respectively. Like most outlet stores, this location was pretty shallow but deep. Obviously, the layout consisted of just multiple rows and aisles of shoes. However, for the liquidation, a folding table had also been set up here at the very front of the store, stocked with plastic buckets of socks and such.

While liquidation signage is very commonplace these days, getting the opportunity to take close-up shots of it isn't. So, I took advantage. I've always been oddly fascinated by this stuff, particularly the percent-off signs. I have a strong desire to get out a Sharpie and just write merchandise categories on a bunch of those things. (And you wonder why I operate a retail blog.)

Glancing down the right-side wall -- home to men's shoes -- followed by the view back up toward the front doors. The large store closing signs up there felt rather large for the space. Note, next to the repeating "men's" and "women's" category names, all of the cute phrases and whatnot. Here, for example, we get "shoes you could sleep in (but probably shouldn't)."

A couple of views over to the women's side of the store. That particular "nothing held back" sign was placed smack on top of one of the women's category names -- good thing there are plenty of others in the store to compensate! Note also, on the display shelf in the bottom picture, the unique use of clipboards to post advertisements or special deals. Of course, at this point they were all being used to show the liquidation discounts, as can also be seen in the photo below...

Pretty much the entire back half of the store was dedicated to the clearance department, with orange signage to separate it from the rest of the store. Most outlet stores are set up in this way. Many also face the similar challenge of how to differentiate themselves identity-wise, given the tight spaces and standardized layouts. Rockport achieved that fairly successfully here, I feel, with its clipboards and cute (if cliché) phrases, as noted above. We'll also see later that its checkout station had a nice attitude to it, and in the image below you can see how its shoe fitting benches also fit into that environment. I get kind of a sophisticated, muted/understated vibe from it all.

I don't believe we totally intentionally set out to stop here on this day, especially since I am notoriously not one for shoe shopping. However, this visit turned out to be quite fortuitous. I had not really had a need for dress shoes up to this point, but I was pretty satisfied with many of the ones I tried on here, so we wound up buying several pairs (or "several pair," as I believe is more grammatically correct to say), including the pair I wore pretty much every day on my internship last year. Since that time I have bought additional Rockport shoes from their continuing retail channels, too. So, they inadvertently gained a loyal customer from their going-out-business sale!

A couple more views up toward the front of the store, as we prepare to head back that way. If you're not familiar, the way many of these outlet stores work -- at least, in the shoe category -- is that those fixtures lining the perimeter walls consist of both customer-facing stock (the shelves on the bottom) and additional storage space (hidden behind the cloth banners on top, which lift up to reveal additional shelves underneath. They magnetically reattach to the metal lip below when they are let down). This allows the stores to maximize the amount of product on hand without having to sacrifice square footage for a large stockroom in back. At Tanger Southaven in particular, I know the Clarks shoe store is set up in the same way, and I'm pretty sure Skechers is also, although it has a much larger space to work with, too.

As I mentioned, much of the store's personality came from very small elements here and there; the register was where the highest amount of all that was concentrated. Check out that very cool desk! I don't quite know what exactly to describe that metal/mesh-on-wood look as, but it kinda reminds me of the style of old-school radios for some reason. What does it bring to mind for y'all?

Completing the ensemble at the "front end," so to speak, were the two black lamps serving as light fixtures over each of the registers, as well as the wood-framed Rockport logo on the wall -- again, a common trait at most outlet stores, since there are so few opportunities to actually get any other obvious branding inside the limited spaces. I like how the panorama my Google Photos app put together for me turned out.

Closing things out with a close-up of the ubiquitous "STORE CLOSING" sign in the front window of the Rockport store... followed below by a humorous scene from another, different shoe store at Tanger, where a box of shoes in the clearance department was marked a whopping zero percent off :P  What a steal, haha!

Hope y'all enjoyed this quick, long-overdue post on the Southaven Rockport closing. If you did, that's good, because I have several other Tanger (and non-Tanger) small store closures in my archives that will likely pop up on the blog here and there over the years. However, none of them are very time-sensitive (given that they're all already long-gone!), so I wouldn't necessarily expect them to show up at specified times or regular intervals.

If you didn't, well, then maybe you'll like the next post I'm planning a little better -- coming next month, a return to our Lost Histories series, focusing on another broken chain. I know I just did one of those in January, but it's been a looong semester for me, and this one is actually quite timely to share, so hopefully I'll enjoy writing it and you'll enjoy reading it! Until then and as always, thanks for reading, and have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are :)

Retail Retell

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Contributor Photo: Seessel's Express, Truse Pkwy, Memphis, TN

Today's post highlights Shelby County, TN, retail.


Hi everyone! First of all -- I want to give a very big shoutout to my friend, Albertsons Florida Blog, for stepping in last month on my behalf. Have you read his post yet? If not, you absolutely should! It's awesome -- check it out here. And if for some reason you're not a regular reader of his blogs yet, be sure to start following those as well. He runs both his namesake Albertsons Florida Blog as well as My Florida Retail (where I've also written a post or two!).

I'm glad AFB was able to keep our quarterly Fred's series rolling, also. I'll be back in June with my own next entry to that series. And I hope to be back, finally!, with a nice big lost histories post next month -- something I've been itching to get back in the saddle with. In the meantime, though, I am still quite busy with other matters, so this month's posts are going to remain on the shorter side. I hope to get one written at the end of the month, too, but for now, tonight I get to share with you something amazingly cool that popped into my inbox this week courtesy of our Nashville friend and contributor Mike B....

Courtesy Mike B.

...a vintage photo of a Seessel's Express gas station/convenience store! How cool is that?! Photos of Seessel's seem to be pretty rare on the internet, so this is a real treat. (And on that note: if you have any Seessel's photos hanging around, please feel free to email them to us at midsouthretailblog [at] gmail [dot] com! I'd love to see them...) Here we're looking at the Seessel's Express in the parking lot of the Truse Parkway Seessel's store, built by Albertsons in 1999. This station faces Poplar Avenue and the very prominent i-Bank Tower across the street.

Mike says the photo paper indicates this film was printed in May of 2002 -- so, not too long after the Truse store opened, and in fact right about the exact time that the Seessel's name was to disappear entirely! If you're unfamiliar with the whole Seessel's story, I encourage you to check out my past entries on the subject here. Long story short, Seessel's was owned by Albertsons for a few years, but then Albertsons realized their buyout of the previously family-owned chain wasn't leading to a whole lot of success in the Mid-South, so they exited the market, selling all of the Seessel's stores to Schnucks. Schnucks would rebrand them to their own name, before ultimately also exiting the Mid-South in 2011, selling out to Kroger. The Truse Parkway store has survived through all of those ownership changes, and remains operational today as a Kroger store.

Courtesy LoopNet

Prior to Albertsons' ownership, Seessel's didn't have any fuel centers of its own; once Albertsons took over, the new stores they built in the Memphis metro area were basically full-blown Albertsons in all but the name, such that Albertsons introduced its own store models, décor packages, etc. to the region. Alongside all of that, Albertsons also brought in its Albertsons Express fuel center/convenience store concept, resulting in the Seessel's Express gas stations like the one from Mike's photo above.

When Schnucks took over the Seessel's chain from Albertsons, they had no past experience with operating fuel centers or convenience stores, but instead of closing the Albertsons-built fuel centers, they decided to tackle them as a new challenge, and converted them over to the brand-new (and copycat-named) Schnucks Express concept. In the LoopNet photo above, we can see what this same Truse Parkway Seessel's Express station looked like during the Schnucks days -- not very different, haha! In fact, everything looks identical, aside from the signage on the wall of the convenience store having been swapped out for new "Schnucks Express" lettering. Before I saw Mike's photo, I was actually under the impression that Schnucks even reused the old Albertsons-era "Express" lettering, simply swapping out the Seessel's wordmark for their own; but we can see from his pic that in fact the Seessel's "Express" letters matched the font of the Seessel's logo, so Schnucks's "Express" lettering was indeed brand-new.

Courtesy Yelp

Here's a closer look under the canopy at one of the entrances to the convenience store. The way this particular station is structured is with the convenience store in the middle of the property, with the canopy stretching off to either side of it, effectively creating double the fueling bays. The blue awnings above the doors and windows are original from the Seessel's/Albertsons days. Schnucks did not alter them in any way -- and in fact, I'd be curious to know if they remodeled the interior any, either.

Courtesy Google Maps

In contrast, once the store was sold to Kroger, the convenience store was rebranded under Kroger's KwikShop banner -- remodeling the interior and removing the old Albertsons awnings, as is shown in the Google Maps photo above. While not all of the former Seessel's stores are still operating as Kroger today, a majority of them are, and I'm pretty certain that every single one of the fuel centers is still under Kroger's ownership -- or, at least, that of KwikShop. While they used to be part of the same company, Kroger actually sold KwikShop off in 2018, so technically they are no longer affiliated with each other.

As a result of that aforementioned sale, the KwikShop-branded fuel centers and C-stores on Kroger properties in the Memphis area -- such as the Truse Pkwy one we've been focusing on in this post -- dropped the KwikShop branding and swapped over to a more generic Kroger branding, to match the stores themselves. The photo above shows the Truse Pkwy KwikShop as it appeared in 2015; the photo below shows it once it had rebranded to a simple Kroger fuel center, in 2018. Both of these images have actually been published before, either on my blog or on my flickr page.

At first I thought that the KwikShops-turned-Kroger Fuel Centers were going to close their C-stores, since it was my impression that the sale of KwikShop and its sister operations across the country represented Kroger's wholesale exit from the C-store business; but it appears that, here in the Mid-South at least, Kroger has continued to operate all of the convenience stores it acquired from Schnucks in the 2011 buyout, so that's good to know. One of these days I'll have to check one or two of them out; I feel like there may even be some old Albertsons interior décor relics to be found hiding away in one of them, if I'm lucky -- wouldn't that be nice! (By the way: for a taste of what the interior of an Albertsons Express would have looked like, check out this post from AFB.)

That will do it for this quick post. I hope you've enjoyed this photographic timeline of the Truse Parkway Seessel's/Schnucks/KwikShop/Kroger fuel center and convenience store. Thanks again to Mike B. for sending in the Seessel's Express photo, and to AFB for filling in for me last month. Please be sure to check back soon for more new posts! Until then, and as always... thanks for reading, and have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are :)

Retail Retell