Kmart’s Christmas Story is One of Hope

Dec 19, 2003
George Anderson

By George Anderson

If Kmart had a wish this Christmas season, it would probably be for consumers who stopped shopping at the store to come back and give the chain another look.

The company, says a Detroit Free Press report, is working to overcome a reputation for disappointing customers.

Bruce DePlonty, Kmart district manager for western Detroit, says the chain is doing what it can to earn back business lost through the retailer’s own past missteps.

“If people haven’t been in our stores for six months, they haven’t shopped Kmart,” said Mr. DePlonty.

With less than a week left to Christmas, Kmart is making a big push to get that second chance from consumers. Kmart will kickoff a four-day storewide sale starting on Sunday.
All stores will be open extended hours from 6 a.m. to midnight.

Some consumers that have gone back to Kmart have already noticed differences in its stores.

Joan Rice of Hamtramck, Mich. said, “It’s cleaner than it was. Stuff is more organized. Prices are getting better.”

Willie Moore, of Detroit, said, “I can get everything I need right here. I don’t have to go to three or four stores. Everything is beautiful.”

But Kmart is going to need a lot more customers like Joan Rice and Willie Moore to get things turned around, say industry observers.

A former Kmart vice president of merchandise presentation, Gary Ruffing, who is now a retail consultant for BBK Ltd., said, “The toughest thing is to win back customers. But
if you continue to treat the customers you have well, then that becomes the most influential marketing that you have. It’s people telling people that things truly have changed.
. . . Kmart has changed.”

Moderator’s Comment: Is Kmart headed in the right direction? What does it need to do bring former customers back?

By its own admission, Kmart is just at the beginning stages of remaking itself into the “neighborhood store” for consumers in the areas it serves.

A company spokesperson, Jack Ferry told the Free Press, “We did not come out of bankruptcy a totally fixed company. We have a lot to do.”

Having recently visited some Kmarts, we have to say the changes being made in its stores are evident, but subtle. Reports are encouraging on a number of
fronts. Let’s hope that this is one of the long shots that makes it.
Anderson – Moderator

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