Today, I went to Sears NY for the first time in almost a decade. I wanted to use up whatever Shop Your Way Rewards points I had left before the store closed for good.
A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that Sears’ bras were always on clearance because even though Kohl’s, Macy’s and J.C. Penney sell the same ones, no one wants to associate Sears with undergarments. Although the Intimates’ clearance section is no longer stuffed with merchandise the way it had been when I worked there, the prices have become absurdly low. A particular bra currently sold at Macy’s and J.C. Penney for $42 cost me $2.99 at Sears. If you need to stock up on female foundation garments, go to Sears while the getting’s good.
Pleased with my Intimates purchase, I decided to look around whatever the Misses department is officially called. (At Macy’s, it’s “Ready to Wear”.) I had picked up some cute clothes at Sears in the past; I loved the Apostrophe brand. Apostrophe must have become Metaphor at some point, or else Metaphor replaced Apostrophe. Either way, the dominant brand for younger women at Sears is now Simply Styled, which is the company’s attempt at fast fashion. Most of the Simply Styled tops on the sales floor were too low-cut for me to wear to work, but I tried on four or five that weren’t. Their quality wasn’t great but they looked pretty on their hangers and each one cost $12. Each one also looked terrible on me. They ran small, with no stretch to their scratchy fabrics. They also were cut in such a way that created a weird boxiness in the shoulders. Later I went to Target and bought three tops that were more flattering; the subtotal was $20. Poor Sears is trying so hard and still can’t get it right.
I didn’t browse the rest of the store. There may be some great deals in the handbags section but I don’t need one right now. Back when I worked at Sears, I made price tags for the Accessories department and through that, I found a red Relic purse that earned me a lot of compliments. I was loyal to the Relic brand until I bought a used Coach bag for $30 on eBay four years ago. (The purse is probably fake; it has an authentic serial number but it doesn’t have the trademark “Coach” ornament on the front. Either way, it’s very well made. Bravo to the counterfeiter.) I’m the type to own a single purse and use it until it’s beaten to death, so while I recommend scouring the handbags section based on my prior experience, I don’t know if it’s worth it.
The store looked great. The floors were clean and all the merchandise was perfectly in place. Every surface shone. It was exactly how a store should look, and that was the saddest thing about it. Macy’s may be in financial decline, but its rummage bin-like sales floor proves that people still shop there. We live in an age where a store’s scaled-down displays and perfectly folded fabrics mean only an elite few can afford to shop there. As the word “elite” has never been associated with Sears, its minimalism was clearly unintentional.
When I brought my purchases to the checkout, I mentioned to the cashier in conversation that I used to work there. That’s when she recognized me. She looked familiar, but I didn’t recognize her name. I felt guilty about it until she said I had changed a lot. I wear my hair the same way I did then, I dress the same and I’ve haven’t gained weight, so that could only mean I’ve noticeably aged in the last decade. Maybe I misheard her. Maybe she only said that to make me think she remembered me. Either way, the reality is that I am 10 years older than I was when I worked there. So is she. We’ve all changed in some way. I have to admit that even though I knew Sears wasn’t doing well back in 2007, I didn’t think its changes would be so dramatic.