Retailers, consumers and prices
Kmart embraces the ghost of Christmas past
Written by Tom Hals
As 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.