Sears Turns Closed Retail Locations Into Data Centers

If there’s been a more resourceful use of assets to bring profitability back to a huge company like Sears, we’d like to hear about it, because the company is looking to completely reinvent itself as a data center provider as its retail locations close.

Sears Holdings has created a new unit called Ubiquity Critical Environments whose task is to take the company’s vast real estate assets--which Data Center Knowledge has pegged at some 3,200 properties comprising 25 million square feet of space--and turn them into data centers, disaster recovery sites, and communications depots wherein wireless providers can lease rooftop space from the company.

Closing Chicago Sears location

Sears will convert a certain number of its closed-down Sears and Kmart locations for the tasks, primarily looking at the ones that are standalone locations as opposed to ones located in or next to malls. Even so, mall locations could be used for disaster recovery sites, as companies need to host their data at multiple geographical locations and such areas would be more desirable for the workers staffing the facilities than, say, a bland concrete industrial park.

Sears data center
Picture a Sears store; now picture this inside of one

Just how ubiquitous are these store locations? According to Sean Farney, COO of Ubiquity, about 70% of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of a Sears of a Kmart. (And yet, so few people go inside of them. Sorry, that was a cheap shot; but seriously, when was the last time you went in one of those stores, without grimacing first?)

Sears wireless
Wireless communications equipment will be perched atop defunct Sears and Kmart stores

The first Ubiquity project is slated for a Chicago Sears store, located on the south side of the city with 127,000 square feet, that will be closing at the end of next month. The facility will be repurposed as a multi-tenant data center, and there’s already at least tenant signed up.

This Ubiquity initiative is, if you’ll pardon the tired expression, excellent out-of-the-box thinking. Sears’ solution to the problem of now-vacant retail buildings isn’t to sell them off for scrap and hope for the best but to hang on to its assets and find a way to make them more profitable. Every struggling company and town in this country could learn a lesson from Sears.