Renovating Retail Space: Implementing modular data centers to outfit, repurpose recently shuttered stores

Date posted: November 21, 2014  Posted by

With more than 190 million Americans now shopping online each year, according to Statista, retail companies have watched foot traffic in their stores drop, forcing them to shutter underperforming locations. Some retailers including Kmart and Sears, however, are repurposing those vast, now empty expanses for a new function — data centers.

Sears Holdings has announced the creation of a new subsidiary tasked with converting more than 2,500 obsolete Sears and Kmart stores and auto centers into data centers, a move that is slightly ironic considering the increase in online shopping on retail websites is one of the factors driving the current data boom.

These and other retailers plan to outfit old, defunct stores with servers, chillers and backup generators to provide businesses without dedicated data centers a new option for their information technology needs.

Transforming such space to accommodate a state-of-the art data center will be technically challenging for owners whose expertise lies selling clothes, shoes and appliances, but deploying modular data center components within these spaces is an option with benefits for both facility and data center owners.

Modularity can be integrated into an existing facility or deployed as a customized factory-built plant. It also allows for consistency and scalability as new requirements and capabilities develop.

Rapid deployment of customized solutions costing less than traditional construction is the hallmark of modular data centers, and these same benefits are achievable even in repurposed retail space.

Rapid deployment

Retrofitting a former department store with the generators, chillers and other equipment required to support potentially hundreds of servers will be a complex, time-consuming renovation. However, the design, fabrication, installation and commissioning of a modular data center only takes six months.

This rapid deployment of a modular data center will allow owners to begin operating their new systems faster which will provide property owners with a new revenue stream sooner.

Customized solutions 

According to Sears’ plan, the renovated facilities will offer “prefabricated ‘modular’ skids” for power and cooling, thus requiring data owners to conform their requirements to the capabilities of the hosting facility.

In a true modular design, components are custom-designed and fabricated to meet the data owners’ and specific owners’ present and future needs.


Use of modular data center components in repurposed retail spaces provide both property owners and data owners with multiple cost benefits.

From the outset, fabrication and installation of a modular data center will require a smaller capital investment for the property owner since much of the required support equipment will be incorporated in the various modular units and customized for each individual customer.

Additionally, modular data centers provide owners with a more favorable depreciation strategy since a data center can be written off over seven years as information technology equipment, rather than twenty years as is required for buildings.

Experience matters

Another critical consideration when investing in a new data center of any type is the experience and expertise of the provider. In most cases, the owner of re-purposed retail space has expertise in the sale of merchandise or possibly property management. As valuable as these skills may be elsewhere, they do not provide the foundation for data center deployment and implementation.

A true modular data center provider is able to muster the expertise and resources to ensure a project is completed on time, on budget and meets all of the data’s owners needs now and in the future.

As data usage grows, more and more companies will look for alternatives to expand their data computing and storage capabilities. Those looking at using repurposed retail space will find that incorporating modularity into their plans will provide them with a data center strategy that will serve them now and in the future.

If you already know modular is the right fit, contact Data Centers Delivered today. We can help you develop the data center solutions that makes sense for your operations.