May 4, 2012

Special Report: The closing of a Kmart - Buford, GA

Big Kmart 1605 Buford Hwy in Buford, GA.
As it was announced on December 27th, 2011, Sears Holdings decided to shutter numerous Kmart locations for 2012. One such location is the Buford, GA Kmart that we briefly featured on here back in 2009. Most of the locations slated for closure have either just closed or are finishing up their GOB sales. In cooperation with our inside sources, we were able to get exclusive access to pictures and information on the process of closing a Kmart store. Closing a Kmart is never an easy thing to do especially on the associates. This particular location had associates who have worked at the store since it's opening. The decision to close this store was not because sales were bad, but because the lease was up and the rent was being increased. In this case Sears Holding's decided it was better to close this location and move on.

During our visit in early January.
This store was one of many that was announced on December 29th to be shuttered in 2012. The preparations began almost immediately. By the first week of January, the Western Union and Lottery services are removed from customer service, Olan Mills is closed, Layaway's are no longer being accepted, and vendor items (i.e. Coca-Cola, Frito Lay products) have been removed from the store. During the month of January the store is responsible for price stickering every item in the store for the impending start of the closing sale. This is a very time consuming but necessary task as things would be getting condensed and moved around once the closing sale started.

Pre-GOB sale in effect.
On January 29th, the 'pre-going out of business sale' starts and the liquidator is now in charge of the store. Total inventory blowout signs are put up around the store, all items are moved back to their regular retail prices and all Kmart promotions end. Everything is put on sale from 10-30% off and the pre-GOB sale lasts about three weeks. The liquidator instructs the store to hire a large amount of temporary help to assist with the extra work involved in a closing sale.

GOB sale had started.
On February 21st, the store goes into full liquidation mode. The total inventory blowout signs come down and the going out of business, everything must go, and nothing held back signs go up. All sales final signs are also posted and enforced. The liquidator starts shifting around the departments and closing off sections of the store that are empty. All items left in the backroom are moved to the sales floor. The tentative closing date was set for May 6th.

A few weeks into the GOB sale.
For the next few weeks, the percentage off for items slowly moves up at the liquidators discretion. Fixtures, furniture, and equipment sales start and the back part of the store is now roped off for the fixture sales. As more merchandise sells, all items are moved towards the center of the store and the empty parts are roped off with caution tape. Shelving units are taken down as they are emptied and placed on pallets to be sold. The liquidator is very adamant on keeping the store neat and presentable even though it's going through a GOB sale. By the middle of March the closing date for the store is moved up to April 22nd because of quicker sell-through than expected.

After Electronics was moved to Jewelry.
 By the end of March the store is getting more and more empty, the electronics department products are moved to the Jewelry department area. The whole back and right side of the store is now closed off. Furniture from the employees areas are moved out to the sales floor to be sold off.

Final 10 days of business.
 On April 12th, signs are put up advertising that it's the last 10 days of business. By this time only the front forth of the store has merchandise left in it. Percentages are moved up further and people start to buy more and more freely. Employees continue to tear down the shelving and stack it on pallets for the customers that buy it. Several groups of fixture buyers are busy removing their purchases.

Last day of business for Kmart.
On April 22nd, the last day of business has arrived and what's left is priced to move. Starting out in the morning items are 50%-80% off. As the day goes on the liquidator moves the percentage up more and more, until finally right before the store closes for good any remaining product is 99% off.

Two days after closing, the sign comes down.
Starting April 23rd, all merchandise is now gone and the store is closed to the public. For the next week the store would be open from 8a-5p for final fixture sales. Employees are tasked with taking down and palletizing all remaining fixtures. Large dumpsters are brought in to throw away fixtures that won't be sold or recycled for scrap metal. Electricians from Sears Holdings Corp. disconnect all of the information systems and electronics. Registers and other electronic hardware are boxed up and sent off to Sears Holdings in Illinois. The jewelry, electronics, and customer service counters are taken apart and sold off. Two of the register counters are transferred to another nearby Kmart and the rest are broken down and thrown in the dumpster. All metal fixtures that weren't sold are picked up and sold off to a scraper. Shopping carts are divided up and sent off to 4 other local Kmart's. Store supplies are wrapped up in pallets and sent off to a local store for use. Store employee files and other sensitive information are either sent off to another Kmart store for storage or shredded on site. The store Loss Prevention employee takes down and removes all of the stores security camera's. Sign crews removed the Big Kmart sign from the building and black out the Kmart name on the road signs.

A week after closing the store is empty.
 By April 28th, everything had to be gone from the sales floor, so the floor could be scrubbed and cleaned. On April 30th the windows are papered over and all store fixtures are now removed from the store. Final preparations are being done for vacating the building. On May 3rd, everything is finished and the store is locked up for the last time. So ends the story of this Kmart location.

From our visit during the first week of January, right after closure announcement-


Olan Mills closed down right after the GOB announcement.

Layaway's were no longer accepted right after the closing announcement.

After the start of the pre-GOB sales and GOB sale-

Pharmacy closed right after the pre-GOB sale started.

In the main backroom.

Upstairs backroom.

Upstairs backroom.

District office was located in the store.

District office room.

Map of Kmart locations in the District office room.

In a closet by where the K Cafe used to be. Walls used to be painted red.

S. Kresge portrait for sale.

Binders being thrown away.

Under the shelves you can see the old blue aisle striping.

Found under an aisle, definitely been there for many, many years.

Looking in the old Pharmacy.

After store is closed for good-

Very old sign that was under an aisle.

Pack of gum that was under an aisle, very old also.

Road sign was painted over.

Old Olan Mills studio.

Inside the Olan Mills.

Another shot inside Olan Mills.

Inside the dressing rooms, look at that old contraption on the ceiling.

Store blueprints for another Kmart that were found.

I believe this was the original layout for the store.

Kmart no more.

Inside the old office.

Well there you have it, a look at a closing Kmart before, during, and after. As always leave your thoughts below.


  1. Hands down the greatest Kmart post ever. Thank you SO MUCH for this!!!

    1. Does anyone know who to contact for leasing info on closed K-mart at 1605 Buford Hwy in Buford . Ga.

  2. I would LOVE so much to have that Kmart districts & regions map! I've worked at 3 Kmart stores and have never come across one.

  3. Best Kmart post EVER!! I have a post going up tomorrow about the Kmart that closed by my house, but it pales in comparison to this. Great job, great pics -- very informative!!

  4. wow. great post!!!! Wonder when the map of Kmart locations across the country was made... seems like a lot more dots than there are today.

  5. A post which will live on detailing Kmart store closing process. While it shows the liquidation of merchandise, it somehow gives the feelings of how life of a store closes related to how store employees witness the liquidation who lived a good portion of their life working at these store locations. I image employee potluck birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, greeting coworkers in the morning happen over the years at these locations and I felt empathy for the employees who endured this and other store closings. I hope for their success in the future as well as Kmarts.

  6. ***SPOILER ALERT***

    After partnering with Paul, we will have a unique article on a Kmart living side by side a Target. The image below is a sample!

  7. This was my very First Job working for retail back in 2006 as an overnight Stock associate. My supervisor was stella. I will miss shopping and seeing that store, but most of all I will miss the Memories. Thanks sears Holding and kmart For what you have Given me.

  8. Does anyone know when the Buford Kmart opened?

    1. Summer 1986, can't remember the exact date

  9. Sad when you think about it. I've been to one or two GOOB sales at Kmarts. Look for the next row of closings to include Warner Robins. It is such a depressing store. And look for me there during the last days!

  10. i Remember going to this K-Mart with my Grandmother all the time, all the fun times i had there.