Sears Turns Shuttered Stores into Data Centers

In this week’s brilliant business news…

There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a long-established and behemoth business make a brilliant business move. It doesn’t happen as often as we’d like. But Sears has definitely done it.

a Sears department store storefrontUnder a newly-created unit of Sears Holdings, Ubiquity Critical Environments, the company will utilize its shuttered Sears and Kmart facilities for data centers, disaster relief sites, and cell phone tower sites. The company has a massive real estate portfolio, with 3,200 properties comprising more than 25 million square feet of space. As dozens of the stores included in this total have closed over the past several decades, Sears hopes to make this conversion a solid shift into the 21st century, digital-based economy.

“The goal is not to sell off properties,” said Sean Farney, Chief Operating Officer of Ubiquity. “It’s to reposition the assets of this iconic brand. The big idea is that you have a technology platform laid atop a retail footprint, creating the possibility for a product with a very different look to it.” Did we mention that Farney used to manage Microsoft’s Chicago data center?

There are all sorts of logistical details that will be hashed out within the plan. For instance, not all the former mall anchor stores make for ideal data centers. But they are the perfect place to position additional cellular towers as people toting smartphones continue to flock to large shopping centers. The free-standing stores are ideal for data centers. “It’s a very different mix of criteria for each line of business,” said Farney. “For Sears, this is a way to create a new revenue stream.”

Naturally, the subsidiary’s name was inspired by the company’s utter breadth of real estate — its ubiquitous stores — and the range of opportunities that can come from it.

This is an enlightened move for the classic American company, one that ensures its position in the economy for this century.

What other companies are finding inspired ways to reinvent themselves to adjust to trends, technology, and consumer demand? We want to hear about more! Post below.