This is a great point that illustrates some of the long-term failings that have gripped Sears. While Sears bet on the viability of the mall as a driver for store traffic, Target, Kohl's, and Walmart tended to stay away from those. I would guess that the initial strategy was more of a money issue as these were new retailers and mall space can be expensive.
Kohl's, Walmart and Target have all seen some struggles in the post-2000s retail boom, but the big difference was they invested in technology and infrastructure processes that allowed them to remain flexible in changing times.
Kohl's and Target used to open 100,000-foot stores when they were expanding but in recent years have realized that it is not cost effective from a sales per square foot perspective. The stores that they open now are much smaller scale and designed to take over spaces that were formerly retail spaces, saving money on construction costs.