By Tami Jackson
30 cents away from having a quarter, Kmart closes
Except for fixtures and mannequins, Tacoma’s Kmart store at 1414 72nd St. E. looks mostly barren with about an eighth of the former sales floor still displaying household goods, jewelry and miscellaneous collectibles for sale at huge discount prices. This Kmart store will lock its doors permanently after shopping hours this Sunday, Sept. 23.
According to employees, who cannot be named thanks to rules from their headquarters about not talking to the media, they are all dispersing into different directions. Some are being laid off and plan to collect unemployment. Others, including the manager who goes by just one name, Hirtie, will relocate to Kent’s Kmart and at least one employee, who was working at the jewelry counter, said she has been with Kmart long enough to retire now. Just when most people were embarking on their personal New Year’s resolutions, earlier this year, Tacoma’s other Kmart store, on Sixth Avenue, also permanently closed.
“The number of associates (affected by the closing) is not publicly available,” said Howard Riefs, spokesman for Sears Holding Corporation (SHC), which owns both retail store brands Sears and Kmart. “Those associates, who are eligible, will receive severance and have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Sears or Kmart stores. Most of the associates are part time/hourly.”
The current going-out-of-business sale means greeting cards are discounted at least 60 percent off the lowest ticketed price. Decorative area rugs measuring five-by-seven feet have been selling for just $39.99 and toys, such as a transforming figurine called the Undertaker, were selling at 70 percent off.
While the liquidation sale began on June 29, Rief spoke about the accelerated closing of unprofitable Kmart stores in general and said: “We understand that members may be disappointed when we close a store, but our Shop Your Way membership platform, websites and mobile apps allow us to maintain these valued relationships long after a store closes its doors.”
Riefs also said that SHC hopes to retain a portion of the sales previously associated with the Kmart stores that have closed by directing folks to shop at other Kmart locations, which are listed at kmart.com/stores.html.
As Kmart thins, marketing efforts beef up to target “plus sized” women with a new “fabulously sized” label
“The average American woman is a U.S. size 16 to 18. Often it’s hard for women to find extended sizes, and even harder when these options force them to choose from a limited amount of styles, patterns, and sizes,” Riefs said. “When we reached out to our members on social media, we asked if they wanted us to integrate extended sizing directly into our brands and apparel divisions or extend sizing in our plus size section.” The members wanted both, Riefs said. “They also told us that we needed to have a better assortment of extended sizing and that we should call it something different. They absolutely love this whole mantra of ‘Fabulously Sized.’”
As a result, Kmart had installed new rack toppers that read: “Fabulously Sized” in a test-store located in Des Plaines, IL. Riefs said the response there was so positive that Kmart is now rolling out that Fabulously Sized signage in all stores nationwide.
Another marketing shift Kmart is making is in reaction to millennial shoppers asking for Kmart’s key brands to be made available in fabulous sizes. “Our biggest goal is to be more inclusive, celebrate body positivity and empower women to look and feel good about fashion,” Riefs said.
With Tacoma’s last Kmart closing, there will still be 600 Kmart stores in operation.