Formerly closed Sears and Kmart stores could help Whole Foods expand into eight new states.

By Zee Krstic
Updated January 15, 2019

After more than 120 years in business, Sears is facing possible liquidation as early as next week—and even if the former retail giant is able to save current stores, there have already been hundreds of closings across the nation since 2016. While Sears isn't the only retailer having trouble keep business strong, the opposite is true for Whole Foods Market, which has experienced growth since being acquired by Amazon in 2017.

According to industry insiders who spoke with Yahoo! Finance, Amazon is interested in opening new Whole Foods stores and expanding the chain. Currently, Whole Foods operates just under 475 stores across the country, but reports claim that the grocer is interested in opening new stores in states that were once out of reach.

With Sears on the verge of collapse (here's what to do if you own Sears kitchen appliances), Amazon executives may consider converting closed locations into Whole Foods Markets, as Sears locations are typically housed in locations with plenty of foot traffic. Yahoo! reports there are already over 123 Sears locations, as well as 205 Kmart stores, that have closed in the last two years for Amazon to consider.

Just last month, Yahoo reports that Whole Foods' executives visited an old Kmart store location in Utah that shut down in the summer of 2017. And Jim Sud, the executive vice president of growth and business development at Whole Foods, recently said the chain was seriously considering converting old stores during an event in Dallas this month.

“First and foremost, we’re looking for the best location we can find. So if that’s an existing center–second generation space that meets all of our criteria…we would jump all over it,” Sud said to a crowd in attendance, Dallas Magazine reports.

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Neil Saunders, the managing director of retail at analytics firm GlobalData, told Yahoo! that landlords of currently closed Sears locations—as well as those that soon may close—would give Whole Foods attractive deals on their leases.

Whole Foods has a heavy presence in metropolitan areas situated along the coast, but Sears’ stores may provide the grocer access to a broader demographic in key markets. The states where Whole Foods doesn't have stores include: Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, Hawaii, and Vermont.

A recent Wall Street Journal report claims that Whole Foods and Amazon executives are gearing up for a massive expansion this year, continuing to grow their delivery and online grocery services to all 475 locations. Sears' stores could be part of that growth plan in the near future.