While Sears has been struggling to survive in the US, the retail chain thrives in Mexico. And when we visited stores in both countries, it was easy to see why.

Greeted with a floor mat reading "bienvenidos" and a pleasant "buen día" from a guard as you walk into the store, it's instantly clear by its appearance and appeal that Sears Mexico is heading down a far different path than its American counterpart.

As Sears US struggles to keep its head above water, Sears Mexico has as much of a solid footing in the country's retail market as any of its competitors.

In efforts to avoid liquidation, Sears' chairman Eddie Lampert successfully proposed a bid via his hedge fund, ESL Investments, to buy $5.2 billion in assets, including 425 stores. This could potentially save up to 45,000 jobs.

The iconic retailer's once strong presence in the US has thinned significantly in recent years, with its sales falling significantly since 2014. 

This lack of financial support has visibly eroded the stores' allure on many levels, including a shortage of staff, stock, and upkeep in many location. 

Lampert blames Sears' descent on a shift in consumer spending and e-commerce, factors that haven't yet affected Mexican retail sales.

The key to Mexico's success? His name is Carlos Slim Helú. The richest man in Mexico, Slim purchased Sears Holdings through his retail holding Grupo Sanborns, which presently owns 99% of Sears Mexico.

Sears has operated in Mexico since 1947, and in 1997 Slim added Sears to his list of profitable business ventures, which include financial companies, a mobile phone empire, as well as businesses in construction and real estate.

Nearly 100 stores throughout Mexico operate under Sanborns, many of which are being remodeled, and three of these are even brand new. Sears Mexico's total sales have also been growing year over year, with 3.4% positive growth in 2017.

Although it can't be said that Sears Mexico is dominating the country's retail market, its growth is in sharp contrast to the rapidly deteriorating reality Sears US is facing.

We visited Sears stores both in the US and in Mexico to get a sense of how they are doing in terms of appearance, products, staff, and general upkeep — and we saw some major differences.

46 PHOTOS
Inside a Sears store in Mexico
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Inside a Sears store in Mexico

There are about 100 Sears stores in Mexico.

Photo credit: Google Maps/Sears 

Source: Bloomberg

When Sears filed for bankruptcy in mid-October, it had 687 stores, though it has closed many since then. Lampert's plan is to cut the store fleet down to 425 in the US.  

Photo credit: Google Maps/Sears 

Source: BloombergBusiness InsiderBusiness Insider

We visited different Sears stores in Mexico City, the first located in the prestigious World Trade Center in south-central Mexico City, where Sears and Sanborns are the main tenants.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

Inside, the store had a tidy, well-kept appearance.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

In another three-story location in Mexico City, we were greeted by a colorful mannequin display.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

We've also visited US Sears stores in Jersey City, New Jersey, Woodbridge, New Jersey, and in the Richmond area of Virginia. At a Jersey City location, the store appeared to be in good shape at first glance as we walked in …

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… but as we dug deeper, we found that some sections were a bit of a mess.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

In the Jersey City, New Jersey, store, there was a small men's section on the ground level that continued on the first level …

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… while in Mexico the men's section occupied a good part of the ground and first floor.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

Sears Mexico's departments appeared fully stocked throughout all sections.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

However, in the US, entire sections of the store in Woodbridge, New Jersey, looked empty.

Business Insider/Sarah Jacobs

The furniture and appliances department was where I found the most customers in Mexico.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

Although there seemed to be more customers in Mexico than we found in the US…

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

…it felt like there was more staff than customers in Sears Mexico, often with multiple employees working in one department.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

Sears Mexico had a strong kitchen appliances selection.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

The electronic appliances department also had a good variety of products and brands…

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

…as well as an ample luggage section.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

Everything seemed in place throughout the store in Mexico…

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

…but we did find a pile of bricks in the middle of the floor in Jersey City…

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

…and a fridge among the furniture, instead of in the appliances section.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Even during holiday sales season in Mexico, clothes and items on sale were packed in a mostly tidy fashion.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

The few items in the US store's clearance department were spread out to make it seem like there were more products.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The children's section was large in Mexico, filled with an abundant variety of toys and clothes.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The children's section also took up a large section of one floor in the US…

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

…but Mexico Sears provided displays with a higher-scale appearance all round, even in the kid's department.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

Most signs we found at a Sears in the Richmond, Virginia area were handwritten.

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But in Mexico, all the signs we saw were printed or laminated throughout the store.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

We also found many folding tables used for display in the US.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Whereas in Mexico, stores had all displays on sturdy tables…

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

…and this was consistent through every department.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

Sloppy mannequin displays were left leaning against the wall rather than propped upright in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Mexican mannequins had a very different mood — they were elegantly dressed and displayed the latest collections…

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

…and many of them were striking lively poses.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

Some of them were placed in stands with lights around them…

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

…and even the toddler mannequins were looking sharp.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

We found accessory racks in Jersey City, New Jersey, that were half empty.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Some displays had barely anything in them at all, such as in the jewelry section…

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

…and this sock display in the Richmond, Virginia area.

Business Insider/Hayley Peterson

In Mexico, racks were mostly full in areas surrounded by other racks displaying similar items.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

Products were displayed in a visible effort to make them appealing.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

The women's accessories department was one of the most cluttered departments in Mexico, but it was still orderly.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

We even found a motorcycle section in Mexico.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

Even from the outside you notice a stark contrast between some Sears US and Sears Mexico stores.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

In Mexico, you get the impression that the stores are being well maintained.

Toya Sarno Jordan/Business Insider

Whereas your first impression at some locations in the US is one of decline ...

... and ruin.

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