THE BEST SELLERS’ LIST- Attention Shoppers: Countdown of the best department stores past, present and future sales

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Thomas Sellers Jr. shopping at one of his favorite spots... Dollar Tree.


By Thomas Sellers Jr.

There is a shipping crisis that will affect the 2021 holiday season. 

Since the turn of the millennium we’ve transitioned more to an online shopping society. But we still need those goods to reach some designation to be loaded to one of those vehicles before reaching our doorsteps. Almost gone are the days when a family loaded in the station-wagon or sports utility vehicle to head to a local department store. 

Back in the 1980s and 90s, we did our social networking, window shopping and budget planning in person at the department store. These structures of convenience were large stores stocking many varieties of goods in different departments. 

The golden age of department stores was in the early to mid 20th Century. Back in the 1940s and 50s, a department store was a large building. The one in Memphis is now the present-day Memphis Crosstown Concourse. 

Back in the day that building was home to Sears. Similar layouts across the United States for a department store feature large window displays, marble floors, glass cases filled with jewelry and perfumes. And they had eateries like tea rooms, snack shops and hot-cook meals menus.  

Earlier department stores were high-class affairs with top notch service, high-price clothing and overall upscale elegance. 

By the time I was a child in the 1980s, department stores phased out some of the elements that made it so trendy. Modern day department stores feature different sections, self-service and food menu more appropriate for a gas station. 

As we trend more toward online shopping and closing store fronts, I am desperately holding on to the in-person experience of department stores. The day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) is the official start to our holiday shopping season. This year you might have to go out and get your gifts to combat the shipping crisis. Here is my list of the top 10 places or department stores to grab something from grocery, clothing, electronics, hardware, cosmetics, sporting goods and more. 

10. Kmart

Attention old-school shoppers, Kmart’s legendary impact on department stores earns it a spot on this list. Once a mighty player in the industry, Kmart’s presence has evaporated into a small mist as of 2021. But most of us older than 35 still have a product in our home from Kmart. Kmart Corporation is an American big box department store chain headquartered in Hoffman Estates, Ill. The company was incorporated in 1899 as S. S. Kresge Corporation and renamed Kmart Corporation in 1977. The first store with the Kmart name opened in 1962. By 2016, Kmart closing 64 stores across the nation including the Austin Peay location in Memphis. 

Between 1986 to 2006, I loved going to Kmart to get sports cards and cool electronics. I miss the “Blue Light Specials.” 

9. Dollar Tree

Wait before you jump down my throat or roast me, Dollar Tree fits into the criteria of a department store. 

A. Can you buy food from the store?

B. Have you ever purchased some socks, a shirt or bandanna for a location? 

C. Is your phone, earbuds or watch currently charging up now from a cord you bought from Dollar Tree?

If you answered yes to any of these, you have treated Dollar Tree as a department store. I rest my cast. I will travel to Chesapeake, Va., to shake the hands of the leaders of this department store and thank them for supplying my home for the past 15 years. Operating 15,115 stores across the U.S., I have a feeling I won’t be alone on this trip. 

8. T.J. Maxx

When I need stylish clothes for a lower price, I will pop into T.J. Maxx. With nearly 1,300 stores across America, they are easy to find. And T.J. Maxx gets a boost in my rankings because it is one of my go-to places for the women in my life. Great selection of purses, accessories and shoes. I just give them a gift card and release them into the wilds… I mean aisles of T.J. Maxx. 

7. Target

Don’t tell my wife Ruth, but Target does have a better quality of product from food to clothing. I am just not in love with the prices. 

Target has been a long time retail giant in the United States and now is the eighth-largest retailer in the country. So Target has developed a devoted customer base. I guess it is worth it to play a couple of extra dollars on groceries, electronics and other essentials to have that target on it. 

6. Ross

The centerpiece of my outdoor shopping malls, Ross can grab an eye from the highway. That bold blue “Ross” has a way of making you pop in for candy, clothes and home décor. Ross Stores, Inc., operates under the brand name Ross Dress for Less. Headquartered out of Dublin, Calif., Ross has more than 1,500 stores in the country. 

Just like T.J. Maxx, Ross has trendy clothes for a good price. Ross ranks  ahead of T.J. Maxx because I feel it is more male-friendly. I had a larger bundle of clothing in my arm before I had to the register when I shopped at Ross. 

5. Sears

Speaking of one of the best department stores of all time, Sears, Roebuck and Co., commonly known as Sears, was the standard department store for about 100 years. Founded by Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck in 1892, Sears wrote the book on what a department store should have, pricing and marketing. 

From top-of-the-line items to creating their own brand, Sears was the best place to shop for appliances, tools, clothes and even your mattresses. 

The decline of Sears has been heartbreaking. The “hometown store” is a rare sight now. From closures at malls to the former independent building versions, Sears’ impact can still be seen visually and felt through formats we see online or in competitors. 

4. Macy’s

I love riding the escalator at Macy’s. With Christmas music in the background and decorations throughout, I get the holiday spirit when I am in Macy’s. Macy’s was founded in 1858 by Rowland Hussey Macy and is now based out of Cincinnati, Ohio.  

Macy’s is my favorite spot to shop for my mom’s fragrances. 

I will occasionally grab myself some winter gear, workout clothes and shoes from Macy’s. But mostly I buy for my mom accessories, beauty aids and her perfume. 

3. Sam’s Club

This place is Walmart on steroids. From church to my job, I’ve purchased in bulk at Sam’s Club. Sam’s West, Inc. is an American chain of membership-only retail warehouse clubs owned and operated by Walmart Inc. Having been a member for nearly 15 years, I’ve purchased mattresses, clothing, computers, buffet food, major appliances, an engagement ring and of course hot dogs from Sam’s. 

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2. Burlington Coat Factory

Burlington Coat Factory is a place where I get most of my coats, jackets and sweatshirts. But over the past 10 years, BCF is my go-to place for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays and whenever I need something. I love the selection of clothing and shoes. Then I can add some cologne to my collection at a low price. Good snacks are available at BCF. My current wallet came from BCF. There are 740 stores in 40 states and I want to see that number grow because I want a BCF in all 50. 

1. Walmart

The place that pushed Kmart into bankruptcy, challenged grocery store giants like Kroger and has given us a “Dollar” section to keep discount chains in line is Wally’s World. 

Walmart got a bad reputation, well earned in many senses. But the chain of hypermarkets, discount department stores, and grocery stores based out of Bentonville, Ark., is my favorite department store. 

Despite “People of Walmart,” the negative customer reviews and employee complaints, my wallet has a special bond with Walmart. Furniture, electronics, work equipment, food, clothes, appliances and art materials have all been bought in a Walmart. Consistency, good customer service and those low prices keep me coming back. From my vitamins to hygiene products, Walmart is my one-stop shop. That’s why it ranks as my favorite department store and the place I will spend most of my holiday dollar. 

THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to thomas@magicvalleypublishing.com.

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