Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Kmart embraces the ghost of Christmas past

November 23, 2009

Written by Tom Hals

kmartAs its rivals plan aggressive discounts on flat-panel TVs and round the clock hours to lure in recession-weary shoppers, Kmart is sticking with what worked, even if it is what worked 40 years ago.
Chief Marketing Officer Mark Snyder, who joined the company last year just before the holiday season, said the chain had no major new initiatives this year but plans to “build on the successes” of 2008. 
In other words, a fresh spin on layaway plans and Blue Light Specials, and of course the deep discount days that are a retailing standard this time of year.
One new offering includes a Christmas club, a staple of 1950s household budgeting that only deepens the impression that Kmart is rushing into its past to find the future.
The goal is to help households crushed by mounting debt to “leverage their cash,” or in other words, pay when credit is no longer available, he told us.
The chain may be onto something.  Kmart’s same-store sales for the quarter ended Oct. 31 rose 0.5 percent, only the second quarterly increase it has posted since 2001.
A recent visit to a Pennsylvania Kmart did not turn up any blaring lights or calls of “attention Kmart shoppers.”  It did show that some elements of Kmart’s past are more easily forgotten.
Asked by this reporter, the outgoing and helpful staff tried to locate Martha Stewart-branded housewares, possibly the last as their long-standing partnership ends this year. 
Another member of staff joined the hunt until a manager reminded everyone that Martha Stewart’s final inventory was sold out the week before, not with blue lights but helped by clearance prices. Like those found at Wal-Mart.

(Reuters photo)


It might work. After all, consumers, having less disposal income, are more concerned with value for money, rather than the all the fanciful decor of the shopping mall.


If the increasing joblessness not reversed, more will go to the food bank than the food mart.

Posted by Morris | Report as abusive

I for one would like to see the Lay – a ways come back to what they were. This would increase sales for all of the retailers. It would help to be able to use this instead of credit cards. And it would increase sales for them.As it is, Kmart has a short time lay-a-way but has to be paid on every two weeks. That does not help people that get paid once a month.Items for school, birthdays, and Christmas could be bought all year with a lay-a-way.

Posted by janey | Report as abusive

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