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


  1. Huh, who knew that Rockport stores had gone out of business? Well, it's probably not news to a lot of people, but it's news to me. I think I've only been to an outlet mall once in about the last decade or so. That visit was last year, but it was right after lockdown and a lot of stores were still closed that weren't actually closed if you know what I mean. It was a pretty surreal experience.

    On that topic, I wonder if people are buying fewer shoes than they used to with more people working and studying online these days. Shoes are probably the last thing to show up on a webcam so I'm sure they are rather neglected.

    Rockports have always had the reputation for being hybrid shoes of sorts. They have the comfort of athletic shoes and the style of dress shoes. However, with the advent of memory foam insoles and such, perhaps the gap in comfort between athletic shoes and dress shoes is not quite what it was and maybe that contributed to Rockport's rocky business situation a few years. It's hard to say.

    I have a pair of Nunn Bush shoes that are kinda, sorta like Rockports. Well, I suspect the Nunn Bush shoes are not quite as stylish as Rockports and are probably squarely in the 'old man shoes' category along with Dr. Scholl's and such, lol. The shoes are very comfortable and light though so I'll endure the old man shoes jokes from co-workers, lol. I will say the shoes are perfect for mall walking!

    We have a Tanger Outlet Mall here in the Houston area in the outer area of Texas City. It opened about a decade ago. I heard someone say not long after it opened that they were having all kinds of problems there because of shoddy construction. Then, in 2017, I saw that the mall operators were suing their contractors due to the shoddy construction. I'm not sure what the end result of this was or if the mall was able to repair the structural problems they were having. Link: https://setexasrecord.com/stories/511245983-tanger-outlets-operator-alleges-builders-failed-to-construct-building-to-meet-specifications

    Those lights Rockport had behind the checkouts kind of remind me of the produce lights at Bauhaus Kroger stores. That's probably about the only Kroger design crossover going on here though.

    0% off original price! Finally some truth in advertising, lol. If only Macy's and Kohl's were as honest about their pricing!

    1. Yeah, Rockport closed all of its physical stores in 2018, so it's been a few years! But I know exactly what you're talking about with all the temporary closures from last year. And you make a valid point about the potential current state of the shoe business as a result of all that, too.

      From what I saw on Wikipedia, Rockport used to be part of Adidas, until Adidas sold them off. They lasted a few years like that, but ultimately wound up in bankruptcy due to a "costly and time-consuming separation." Weird, but I'm sure it's not untrue. Glad they still make them, even if they don't have physical Rockport stores these days.

      LOL! Well, on the topic of Dr. Scholl's shoes, that used to be exclusively what I would buy. I like comfortable tennis shoes, and it was difficult to find shoes that fit me well. Walmart's Dr. Scholl's shoes always did the trick, but a few years ago they changed the gel insole to where it's a separate insert rather than built-in so it wore out and came out easily. Much shoddier, in other words. I switched to Skechers at that point for tennis shoes. Rockport seems nice for dress shoes.

      Wow, that's unfortunate about the Tanger construction! Hopefully they got everything settled regarding that.

      That's what they reminded me of as well! I almost mentioned that in the post, but decided to leave it out. I thought you might notice the same thing, though.


  2. Michael M here from north Alabama. I continue to read and enjoy your work after we worked together on the Kroger/Jitney stuff last year. Rockport is of particular interest to me because of when I worked in the Jitney Super Food Store (1989-92). The Kroger and Jitney managers who wanted to project a sense of style yet wear comfortable work shoes paid $125 a pair -- considerable money 30 years ago! -- for Rockport DresSports in either wingtip or plaintoe design.

    Rockport seemed to be the only company 30 years ago who understood the need to make a great looking dress shoe with a comfortable Vibram outer sole that was comfortable for walking on hard floor surfaces.

    A good ad campaign from about 1990 was where Rockport hired a strong runner to run a full marathon in their DresSports shoes! I was sold; I bought several pairs during my college years. Rockport in those days made much higher quality shoes than they have for the last 10 or 15 years. The leather on vintage Rockport shoes was VERY high quality, and that generation of Rockports was generally made in Croatia or Hungary.

    I still have two or three pairs of those early 90s Rockports, and I'm always surprised by the good quality. They still wear super comfortably too. --MM

    1. Hey Michael, good to hear from you! I enjoyed working with you on that post and I'm glad to hear you're still liking the blog. That's pretty awesome how Rockport shoes tie into the Jitney you worked at! Those DresSports sound pricy for sure, but also very well-made, especially if you're still rocking them 30 years later (hard to believe it's been that long).

      You're right that the shoes in the days of the DresSports must have been made better than they are today... don't get me wrong, I like my Rockports, but the DresSports sound more comfortable, the way you're describing them. That ad campaign was a clever idea indeed!


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