3 Kmart stores left in the US after April 16

From celebrity-endorsed store brands to literal “flash” sales, iconic mass merchandiser Kmart pioneered many concepts valued by today’s shoppers, albeit in other ways.

However, that has not saved the once mighty retailer. After April, Kmart will have just three US locations.

Turning discount shopping into a kind of gamified sport, Kmart locations numbered more than 2,000 at the chain’s heyday in the late 1990s, as it blended merchandise and services into a destination shopping concept that helped define the retail landscape before e-commerce. Its strategy of focusing on the suburbs was an early strength that Walmart may have improved upon.

News broke on Monday (April 11) that the Kmart store in Avenel, New Jersey will close on April 16, bringing the countdown to US stores down to just three: Bridgehampton, New York; Miami; and Westwood, NJ. Don’t expect much in terms of Blue-Light Specials right now.

Kmart’s concepts were ahead of their time, seeing overlapping aspirations between luxury lifestyles and price-conscious shoppers, creating several curated lines endorsed by home style guru Martha Stewart, TV star and fashion icon. Jaclyn Smith, NASCAR ties and more.

See also: Sears Holdings to close 28 Kmart stores

Those clever ideas didn’t save Kmart from Amazon, Target and Walmart or from the steady shift away from department store shopping, let alone from the lure of e-commerce.

In January, owner Transformco closed Kmart’s Fort Lauderdale, Fla., location, saying in a press release that its “forward store strategy for Sears and Kmart is to operate a diversified portfolio consisting of a small number of larger stores.” large and upscale with a greater number of small-format stores, combined with its Shop Your Way rewards program, online marketplace and buy online, pick up in store [(BOPIS)] capabilities.”

Also read: Costco pays $1 billion to Sears owner for Logistics Co Innovel

The statement said Transformco “will continue to explore Hometown Stores and Home & Life stores in cities and towns that previously had larger-format stores.”

What remains of these two retail empires can now be found on ShopYourWay, a former Sears loyalty and rewards program that is now an e-commerce site offering discounts and deals on Sears brands like Kenmore, and points for purchases redeemable with dozens of partners.

An improved app called Shop Your Way Max debuted in 2021 and offers higher point rewards.

Missteps on the path of growth

Transformco was formed in February 2019 by former Sears Chairman and CEO Eddie Lampert, owner of the private hedge fund ESL. Transformco acquired more than 400 locations in the Kmart and Sears chains from Sears Holdings for $5.2 billion, along with other assets.

Already facing more serious competition from a rising Walmart more rural-focused and with an impressive logistics operation, Kmart is seen as having ignored logistics in favor of the sheer brute force of brick-and-mortar stores.

It acquired Borders Books, Builder’s Square and Sports Authority, which were either overbuilt or succumbed to competitive pressures, eventually closing.

Walmart overtook Kmart as the largest chain in 2002 and in its focus on modernization.

As Fortune reported, “Kmart also failed to invest in the right technology and logistics, causing it to lose out to Walmart and putting them in a position where the company would never catch up. The slow adoption of e-commerce put the final nail in Kmart’s coffin as shoppers increasingly turned to the Internet for their needs.”

Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia University in New York and former CEO of Sears Canada, told the New York Post on Monday (April 11): “It’s a study of greed, avarice and incompetence. . Sears should never have gone; Kmart was in worse shape, but not fatally. And now they’re both gone.

“Retailers sometimes fall by the wayside because they are selling things that people don’t want to buy,” Cohen added in the report. “In the case of Kmart, everything that they used to sell, people are buying, but they’re buying it at Walmart and Target.”

As a postscript to this chapter in the retail saga, a federal bankruptcy court ordered creditors of Sears Holdings to mediate with Lampert on Friday (April 8) in this ongoing litigation.

See also: How retail is turning shuttered stores into new opportunities

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