Kmart Provides Assistance to Unemployed Nationwide

Discussion
Sep 30, 2009
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Kmart announced earlier this week that it was going national
with its Smart Assist Savings Card, which provides customers who have lost
their jobs with a 20 percent discount on roughly 1,500 private label items
in the chain’s stores. 

The Smart Assist program, which was tested in Michigan, enables
card holders to receive the added discount for a period of six months. Individuals
in the program are required to show their Kmart Smart Assist Savings card
along with valid state-issued unemployment verification and ID for signature
verification to receive their savings.

Tom O’Boyle, senior vice president, president, food and consumables
for Kmart, said in a press release, “We’ve seen in Michigan that the Kmart
Smart Assist Savings Card has helped cardholders keep good quality food on
the table and their households stocked with staples while they get back on
their feet. We hope that this program has the same positive impact across
the country.”

A host of government officials have praised Kmart for offering
help to those in need.

Rep. John D. Dingell (D – Michigan),
said in a statement, “This
is good corporate citizenship and I want to applaud Kmart and its parent
company, Sears Holdings, for doing its part to help people who are struggling.
We have a lot of people in transition right now, and these displaced workers
will – like our state itself – get back on their feet and remember those
who helped during this time of hardship. Kmart has a long, proud history
in our state and I think people will recognize the company for this good
deed.”

Discussion
Questions: Will consumers reward Kmart for its “good deed" in offering
the Smart Assist program? What are your thoughts on the program only
applying to private label items?

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7 Comments on "Kmart Provides Assistance to Unemployed Nationwide"


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Justin Time
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

I applaud Kmart and Sears Holdings for doing this for the unemployed.

This holiday season is bleak enough. Kmart shoppers who are unemployed temporarily can find a glimmer of hope that their scarce dollars will go much further at a Kmart store.

Smart idea, Kmart. This along with layaway will endear these shoppers and others to the Kmart brand.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 7 months ago

Seems like a great idea but why not expand it beyond private label? Last I checked, Kmart’s private label programs were not the best around and there are many brand-name variants with no house brand alternative on the shelf at Kmart. What about clothing? With cold weather coming up, I would love to know if it extends to apparel.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

Kmart is and should be applauded. Kmart may turn the Savings Card folks into regular customers even after they are reemployed, but their good deeds won’t go further.

A retailer can not use promotions and programs to rebuild a business that is basically flawed. And, if the Savings Card customers don’t find Kmart as an attractive alternative to its competition, Kmart will not even hold these customers in the long run.

A question–How does Kmart keep the Savings Card customers from purchasing for their extended family and friends?

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
11 years 7 months ago

Kmart is a Michigan company with a long heritage that began with “dime store” Kresge. Any assistance Kmart gives to unemployed Michigan workers will generate much goodwill with that state’s consumers. Restricting the program to private label will make no difference to the hungry recipients.

Taking their program nationwide may not have the same impact as in Michigan. Kmart’s coverage is lesser elsewhere than in Michigan, just as is its reputation. But to unemployed people who ARE assisted by Smart Assist, it will make a good, current impression. But if Wal-Mart were do something similar, then get out the eraser.

Robert Craycraft
Guest
Robert Craycraft
11 years 7 months ago

Good for Kmart. I believe that there is room at the bottom of the economic chain for them to survive, and even thrive, as Walmart continues to upscale and Target flounders. I would recommend they go with bare-bones merchandising and have a very clear pricing message.

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

I don’t think it will have an impact. First, it would simply be easier just to go to Walmart and get 20% off without the hassle of the card. You know Kmart will have jacked up the prices on the private label products. Kmart is not in the business of giving breaks to the unemployed. Second, why would someone want to waste their time going to some disheveled Kmart and pick through some glorified rummage sale looking for a few private label items? It’s bad enough being unemployed. Why worsen your self esteem by shopping in a Kmart?

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
11 years 7 months ago

One thing I’ve been chatting with clients about over the past year is trust. Specifically how the recession has contributed to a lack of trust in brands. And how brands can do themselves a world of good by showing that they understand the family-level recession, i.e., the recession-era’s daily struggle to put food on the table in households nationwide.

The Hyundai Assurance program is the classic example, but since the economic downturn, we’ve seen plenty of unique programs from industry brands designed to help recession consumers save dollars and make sense of their shopping. Kmart’s Smart Assist Savings program is another good example. It helps unemployed consumers, and it should help build brand trust both now and going forward.

As for extending the program beyond private label, that would be great. Still, I’ll be honest in that I don’t expect any brand today to act with total altruism.

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