Haunting photos of Walmart stores shutting down reveal a new normal in America

Walmart close 32
Walmart close 32

Nicholas Eckhart

In January, 269 Walmarts around the world closed for good, leading to major sales and empty aisles.

The closings affected 154 stores and 10,000 employees in the US.

With the growth of online shopping, brick-and-mortar stores are becoming a less important part of the retail business.

Recently, Macy's revealed it had planned to close 40 stores in early 2016.

According to Neil Saunders, the CEO of retail research agency and consulting firm Conlumino:

The blunt truth is that while stores remain a vital part of the retail mix, they are not quite as relevant as they used to be. Walmart's decision is part of a larger shift that will be played out across all parts of the retail sector over the coming year and beyond.

Before the Walmart locations shut their doors for good, retail photographer Nicholas Eckhart visited two supercenters in Hartland, Michigan, and Bedford, Ohio, in their final week of business.

Here's what Walmart stores look like as they prepare to shut down — something that could soon be a familiar sight at retail chains across the US:

From the outside of this Bedford, Ohio, location, everything looked normal.

Nicholas Eckhart

But inside was a different story.

Nicholas Eckhart

Nicholas Eckhart

Nicholas Eckhart

The Hartland, Michigan Supercenter was in a similar state of disarray.

Nicholas Eckhart

Nicholas Eckhart

Bargain-hungry shoppers showed up in droves and cleared out the shelves as the stores prepared to close for good.

Nicholas Eckhart

Nicholas Eckhart

Nicholas Eckhart

Most of the 154 locations shuttered in the US were smaller Walmart Express stores. At the 12 Supercenters that closed, the company had more merchandise it needed to sell.

Nicholas Eckhart

Nicholas Eckhart

Nicholas Eckhart

Even before items ran out, Walmart had shut down some parts of its business, like the Pet Center.

Nicholas Eckhart

Nicholas Eckhart

Nicholas Eckhart

Many shelves were completely empty even before January 28, the stores' last day of business.

Nicholas Eckhart

Nicholas Eckhart

One thing that wasn't selling out was wine, which was not included in the clearance sale.

Nicholas Eckhart

Groceries, on the other hand, were flying off the shelves.

Nicholas Eckhart

Nicholas Eckhart

Nicholas Eckhart

Nicholas Eckhart

By January 28, discounts had skyrocketed to 75% at the Bedford, Ohio, location.

Nicholas Eckhart

Nicholas Eckhart

Nicholas Eckhart

Nicholas Eckhart

The Walmart locations' last day of business was eerie, with acres of empty shelves.

Nicholas Eckhart

Nicholas Eckhart

Nicholas Eckhart

Nicholas Eckhart

While these stores are gone for good, the company says that it still plans to open more than 100 US stores in the next year, including 50 to 60 Supercenters.

Nicholas Eckhart

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