or e-mail us for more information.
Join Our Newsletter
Enter E-mail Address:
The Achiever Newsletter
I Don't Think So!
Over the past year, I've actually been accused of being anti-Kmart. That
fact was pointed out to me, in a light-hearted way, by a few friends,
family members, associates, and even a couple of clients. This observation
seems to have developed from various comments I've made about the troubled
retailer during keynote presentations across the country or in articles
I've written from time to time. Truth be known, the absolute opposite
I've been a life-long fan of Kmart ... possibly one of their top ten
fans of all time. I bought my first kite with my allowance money at Kmart
when the stores were know as S.S. Kresge Stores and everyone called them
Five and Dime Stores. Can you believe that?
My beloved grandfather took me to the Grand Opening of the world's first
Kmart Store in Garden City, Michigan in 1962. I remember it like it was
yesterday. I walked into the largest, brightest, most beautiful retail
store I had ever seen. I couldn't believe how clean and neat everything
looked ... almost antiseptic. The floors were spotless and merchandise
was aligned perfectly on every shelf. Smiling cashiers adorned in bright
red fashion smocks sported classic name tags that could be read easily
at 10 paces. Store personnel appeared both knowledgeable and polite ...
a rarity in today's marketplace. "Attention, Kmart Shoppers"
preceded numerous alerts directing us to the most current "Blue Light
Specials." Enthusiastic cashiers sent us on our way with a
cheerful TYFSAK ("Thank You For Shopping At Kmart.") I was quite
certain than I had died and been instantly transported to Disney World!
I can visualize that experience as though it were yesterday.
In addition to these vivid recollections, I've always taken pride in
the fact that Kmart originated in my home state of Michigan and has always
maintained its corporate headquarters in the metropolitan Detroit area.
I share these fond memories to illustrate my devotion to this once powerful
retail giant ... a far cry from being anti-Kmart.
What has recently been mistaken as anti-Kmart remarks on my part was
actually nothing more than a simple reflection of the outrage I feel for
a lackluster leadership team that has allowed one of the world's top retailers
to be reduced to cheap fodder for editorial cartoonists and late-night
talk show hosts. Bankruptcy, store closings, massive lay-offs, outrageously
compensated leaders, filthy stores, horrendous customer service, and cancerous
out-of-stock conditions ... these aren't individual opinions, they're
actual conditions observed by authorities from Wall Street, government
agencies, national media, and consumers world wide. To me, this is inexcusable
and unforgivable. I'm somewhat certain that Sebastion Sperling Kresge
is spinning in his grave!
To add insult to injury, those in command of this floundering icon, have
apparently learned nothing from the demise and/or struggles of other retail
giants like Montgomery Wards, Service Merchandise, and many other regional
giants. They continue to mistake common sense and accepted practice for
giant strides on their part. For instance, let me share two short paragraphs
I read in a recent issue of USA Today. The main headline read:
"Kmart predicts ‘03 rebound." The sub-title read: "Promotions
pay off." These headlines were followed by rhetoric any sane Spin
Doctor would avoid like the plague! I had to read it several times and
still felt as though I should check the calendar to see if it was April
1st (April Fool's Day)! It read as follows:
Kmart predicts ‘03 rebound
Promotions pay off
Kmart Corp. on Monday said its same store sales improved because
of aggressive new promotions. They include:
- The "Have to Have It" promise in Detroit and Chicago
gave customers in-stock and price guarantees on certain items
in Kmart's circulars. Store traffic, particularly in Detroit,
showed a significant improvement.
- A pilot program in Chicago to keep the top 300 items in stock
at all times. The sales trend improved so much the retailer plans
to expand this program to other major markets.
Source: Kmart Corp.
Let's examine these remarkable statements created by the marketing brain
trust in the land of the "blue-light special." Their "Have
To Have It" promotion is astounding! First, they chose just two cities
in the entire world in which to offer this promotion. Then they
promised their customers they would actually stock merchandise that they
advertised in their circular. (DUH!) They went on to promise to sell this
merchandise at the price at which they advertised it. (DUH!) Based on
their own words, these promises pertained to only certain items in
their circulars! Does that mean other items in the circular won't
be available in the store and, if they are, will be marked at a price
other than the price in the circular? If you're not laughing out loud
at this point, you need to re-read this paragraph!
The second Chicago pilot program is more difficult to believe than the
first one! Someone in the Motor City Ivory Towers of Kmart came up with
a real innovative approach to retail selling. They put their heads together
and decided to keep their top 300 items in stock at all times! (DUH!)
For some unbelievable reason, sales increased when they tried this "out-of-the-box"
concept! As a result, they've decided to try the same thing in some of
their other major markets! If things keep going so well, they may decide
to keep more than their top 300 items in stock and they may even decide
to go way out on a limb and expand this promotion to all of stores instead
of just some of their major markets. What a concept!
Personally, I can't believe the captain of this sinking ship allowed
that article to be released to the press. I'm not anti-Kmart. I'm anti-stupidity.
I've lived my life knowing I would see that familiar giant red
K in every city I traveled through. It has been a long-standing
mainstay in our culture. I can say the same thing about my parents and
my children. I'm truly saddened that I may not be able to say the same
thing for my grandchildren. If the powers that be at Kmart don't wake
up soon, Kmart will go the way of Montgomery Wards, Service Merchandise,
and others who turned a deaf ear to the voice of the consumer. Kmart resurrects
the blue light special and threatens to change their color scheme from
red to green at a time when they should clean up their stores, stock their
shelves, and teach their employees how to treat customers as though they
want them to return. However, I fear that would be asking too much. My
heart longs for the return of the Kmart of old that brought smiles to
faces of loyal customers everywhere. My head says it will never happen.
I hope I'm wrong.
Publication Date: Fall 2002
K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®,
Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars,
and consulting services.
Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer
For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629
or fill out our contact