Featured Post

Kmart’s Death Without Dignity

The first Kmart in Garden City, Michigan. Opened in 1962, this location closed in early 2017. Photo by PeRshGo.

Anyone that grew up in Michigan in the 1970s and 80s now lives with ghosts and zombies. No, there wasn’t a zombie apocalypse in Detroit, but if you were like me and grew up in towns like Flint or Detroit or Saginaw, you know what your hometown was like in the 70s and how it all started going south in the 1980s. The auto industry was king in most of Southern and Central Michigan, but when changes in the industry hit, factories closed and businesses moved away. We were left with ghosts of a former past and a desire, a hope, that the good days could come back if we just did whatever we were supposed to do to make them come back.

My hometown of Flint is now known for the ongoing water crisis, but before that debacle, it was known as a town that was built by GM. In the good days, the 1970s, some 80,000 people worked for General Motors. Today, that number is around 8,000. Such changes tend to make a town like Flint a ghost of its former self.

So if you are from Michigan, you are used to living with ghosts. But seeing the ghosts is not easy. It means seeing what they are now and remembering what they once were.

During those good days in the 1970s, one of the places that we went to go shopping was Kmart. Started in 1962 (which happens to be the same year both WalMart and Target were started), the retailer was based in Troy, Michigan in its heyday. The seventies were a time when people were budget-conscious and those on a budget went to Kmart. I remember that the stores used to have a deli that was usually in the middle of the store. I would sometimes wrangle my parents to take me to the deli to have their deli sandwiches. I liked them because they were round, and had a certain tangy taste.

Kmart wasn’t fancy, but it was the place all Michiganders went to. WalMart and Target were not yet the giants they are now, and Kmart became America’s discounted place to shop.

A recently closed Kmart in West St. Paul, Minnesota. Photo by Dennis Sanders.

At some point, maybe in the mid-80s, my parents and I stopped going to Kmart. So did a lot of other folks. It was no longer the go-to place anymore. My guess is that they stopped innovating, and that allowed WalMart and Target to pass Kmart by. At some point, Kmart became a place that one associated with, well, junk. I remember in the late 90s, I stopped at a store in St. Paul. I needed an air conditioner and found one for a low price. I took it home ready to enjoy cool air and…nothing happened. The air conditioner didn’t work. I had to return it. Kmart was losing its game. It was fast becoming a has-been in the retail scene.

In 2002, Kmart declared bankruptcy and started closing some stores. This was a sign of what would happen in the future.

Market forces and a lack of innovation are what started Kmart on its slide towards irrelevance. But what has turned it into a zombie was one man: Eddie Lampert.

Lampert was born the same year Kmart started: 1962. The CEO of a hedge fund, he bought Kmart in the mid-aughts and then merged it with another struggling retailer, Sears. What has happened since is hard to watch: more and more stores closing, the selling off of valuable parts of the merged company and little if any money put into revising the aging stores. Most companies would have sacked a CEO that hasn’t turned a profit since 2010 and who will go down in history for wrecking not one, but two storied brands. But he remains the captain of the retail Titanic as it continues to sink.

There may be a reason that he is still in charge: he might be able to cash in on Sears and Kmart’s slow demise. In March CNBC reported the following:

USA TODAY estimates that the value of Lampert’s Sears stock has declined by roughly $519 million since the end of 2014. That estimate was derived by calculating the value of his Sears holdings at the end of each year since 2010, using Sears closing stock price for the year and the number of shares Lampert owned at the time, culled from S&P Global Market Intelligence data. Using that methodology, the highest year-end value of Lampert’s Sears holdings was $760.3 million.

But Lampert won’t lose it all.

“If they go bankrupt, he remains in control of the company because, though he loses his equity stake, he’s their principal creditor,” former Sears Canada CEO and Columbia Business School Professor Mark Cohen said in an interview. But Lampert has cordoned “off an enormous amount of assets through the loans he’s made, which have essentially protected him from what is eventually (going to) occur.”

He has spun off divisions, provided secured financing in exchange for real estate collateral and transferring valuable properties to an investment trust, all while retaining ownership stakes in those assets.(emphasis mine)

He sells a part of the retailing giant and still retains ownership, meaning more money. The article goes on to list the sales:

Here’s how Lampert has retained assets even as Sears has shriveled:

•Lands’ End: Sears spun off retailer Lands’ End in 2014, but Lampert’s hedge fund owns 59% of the company. That stake was worth nearly $360 million as of Wednesday morning.

•Real estate: Sears sold 235 store properties and its interest in another 31 properties to a newly formed real estate investment trust (REIT) called Seritage Growth Properties for $2.7 billion in 2015. The deal gave Seritage control of some of Sears’ best properties in a sale-leaseback transaction. Lampert’s ESL owns 43.5% of the limited partnership units of Seritage and 7.9% of the REIT’s voting power.

The move was similar to transactions favored by investors in legacy retailers whose real estate is considered more valuable than their actual business.

Other news outlets, such as the New York Post, report the same thing: Lampert is stripping the company of its assets and also making sure he makes something off the demise of Sears and Kmart.

I don’t want to say that Kmart would be doing well had it never been purchased by Lampert; as I’ve said already, Kmart (and Sears) were already struggling. I would go further and say that the two retailers probably would have closed up shop anyway without Lampert. But Lampert is killing off the two stores by a thousand paper cuts, little by little. The stores look shabbier and shabbier and more and more stores close, and more parts of the company are sold off. It would be better if the stores just closed all at once, but that would probably not benefit Lampert. So what we have is this slow death, where Kmart especially has become a zombie, shambling through the retail market, slowly disintegrating.

I wish at times that someone would come in and save Kmart. Kmart Australia is owned separately from Kmart and is doing great down under. At one point, it was also struggling, but it has made a turnaround. The chain was bought in 2007 by Wesfarmers, who brought in the former head of McDonald’s in Australia to turn things around. And he did:

Russo has slashed stock, reduced prices, closed warehouses, de-cluttered stores and urged staff to smile. In the year to June 30, Kmart lifted earnings by 80 per cent, to $196 million, and Wesfarmers managing director Richard Goyder noted that Kmart had “made good progress in executing its strategic plan”. After a decade of neglect under Coles-Myer’s ownership, the Kmart “ugly duckling” is not yet a swan, but it’s looking a lot prettier than before.

I wish that Wesfarmers would swoop in and save Kmart here in America. Maybe under an owner that really cares it could be saved and thrive.

I know that it is probably a dream to think that Wesfarmers could come in and revive Kmart. After all, other well-known discount stores have suffered a similar fate. Woolco, Zayre, Ames, all of these were at times giants in the discount retail industry and are now just a memory.  That said it is hard for this native Michigander to see a Michigan-based company go down like this.

Kmart deserves either a good death or second chance at retail life. But looks more and more that it will get neither and that’s a shame.


Staff Writer

Dennis Sanders is the Associate Pastor at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Minneapolis, MN.  You can follow Dennis through his blogs, The Clockwork Pastor and Big Tent Revue and on Twitter.  Feel free to contact him at dennis.sanders(at)gmail(dot)com.

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
TwitterFacebookRedditEmailPrintFriendlyMore options

71 thoughts on “Kmart’s Death Without Dignity

  1. It worked for 7/11. 7/11 Japan was spun off as its own company, 7/11 America was run into the ground by its management, in much the same way you describe with Kmart, 7/11 Japan came back and bought out the erstwhile 7/11 parent company, and has since turned it around nicely (afaict).

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
      • “Lawson Station.”

        When I was growing up in NE Ohio, there was a chain of convenience/dairy stores called Lawson’s. Then they were all gone. Many years later (like, 25), I was reading an article online about conbini – Japanese convenience stores. They referred to Lawson Station and had the logo – almost identical to the long-lost Lawson’s sign of my youth.

        It was weird. Almost Proust’s madeline.

        Apparently they have one or two in Waikiki, because of the high numbers of Japanese tourists. If I ever get back to Hawaii and can get my hands on a Lawson Station t-shirt, I’m buying it….

          Quote  Link

        Report

        Reply
         
  2. Sears, though: it makes me sad that a company that pretty much got its start selling EVERYTHING via catalog (in some communities, there still stand houses from “Sears kits”) couldn’t get a foothold in the Internet era and morph itself into “the catalog-seller for the 21st century.”

    Though it does look like we can trace the blame back to one greedy guy, or so the article implies?

    (I used to LOVE Land’s End clothes back when they were their own company; wore them all through prep school. Then when Sears bought it up I figured, “Uh-oh, there goes the quality” and I was at least partially right. At least they’re not going to get dragged down in Sears’ whirlpool when it dies, I guess, though I don’t know if the quality is as good again as it once was….then again, nothing these days (other than electronics) is as good as it once was; stuff is more-cheaply made to be more-cheaply sold and people don’t mind replacing stuff in a year or two.)

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
    • The irony about Sears is that it issued its last catalog in 1993. Amazon was founded in 1994. It is possible to imagine a universe where Sears kept the catalog model a bit longer, and transitioned it to the internet. In this universe, Sears had a lot more imagination in its C-suite than in our universe.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
  3. So are you cheering for Yellen?
    Free Money Crisis is what’s been keeping retail limping along. Raise the refinancing rates (the loan terms), and suddenly, everyone’s out of business.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
  4. Isn’t this just the natural results of the free market? Businesses that are obsolete or can’t deal with changing times will fail. Even well run businesses with dedicated customers will fail if the landlord decides another tenant can pay higher rent. That’s supposed to be the way of the world to market advocates. Businesses don’t get a dignified death or a second chance because of past virtue.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
  5. Dennis,
    I saw the same thing as you did, albit a bit later, in my small town. The main street was essentially dead. Folk stopped going. They’d rather go to Portland where all the cool malls were, or maybe The Dalles or Yakima.

    After moving to the east and moving into the “marital” estate our local town had a mall that was dead in all practicality. It had a Kmart and it took years for the lease negotiations to get them out and get the mall renovated. It appears to be a thriving location now, although I no longer live in that area. But I see similar things in my local mall. Higher end stores swap in and out. Sears has been in long decline for decades. My mall has recently announced that Sears is consolidating from two floors to one.

    I’ll not begrudge an investor/owner taking the long view and squeezing profits or configuring his losses to max a tax benefit. Such is the way of things.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
    • When I moved to my little town, the downtown was dead. Locals talked about how there used to be a Penney’s, and a T G and Y, and a downtown grocery store, and a bookstore. Then everyone was able to afford a car and decided they’d rather drive the hour’s round trip to the next nearest city.

      Then, for a brief period (about 2009-2016), we had a flowering of small specialty businesses: several gift shops, a couple with cafes inside. A quilt shop. A bookstore. A gourmet shop. It was lovely. I once commented that I didn’t need to go out of town for gifts any more.

      Then the businesses started to close up. In one case (a gift shop) I know the owner wanted to retire but now really the only thing left is the gourmet shop and a “party place” that caters to high end children’s birthday parties. (Why do we only have “nice” stuff for little kids? Don’t adults get nice stuff?)

      We did recently have a quilt shop re-open, it is inside a car dealership. I can only assume that’s how niche businesses will make it in the future: be inside a more general and presumably more profitable business. (It’s also not impossible that the owner of the quilt shop is a wife, sister, or daughter of the owner of the dealership).

      I dunno. I like “fun” shopping – for craft supplies, books, antiques, that sort of thing – as a way of getting out of the house and blowing some of the cobwebs of work that accumulate in my brain, and if that all goes online….well, it’s not the same.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
      • a “party place” that caters to high end children’s birthday parties. (Why do we only have “nice” stuff for little kids? Don’t adults get nice stuff?)

        I was astounded to learn of the extent of the kids’ birthday party industrial complex. I wonder what percentage of the local economy it fills. I never knew, until I had kids. My kid would be invited to one of these, and would want one for herself. Our rule is every other year. That way we are only paying for one a year.

        I have to admit, though, that they do a bang-up job. We have used several venues, and have attended quite a few more. They have uniformly been well organized, and the kids had a great time. There is a lot of competition between the various venues. Typically each has their own gimmick, and beyond that they compete on service pretty fiercely.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        Reply
         
        • My “parties” as a kid were all within family, and I generally didn’t get invited to other girls’ birthday parties (or later, to the co-ed parties). So I boggle at the level of parental competitiveness in parties today – I have heard friends who are parents complain about the pressure to provide the perfect “goodie bag” to guests.

          People ask me if I regret having children. Honestly? Not really, though when I’m old and sick and need to go in a ‘home’ ask me again.

          Still, I wish there were fun nice things for adults that didn’t center around drinking Mass Quantities, because I don’t do that.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          Reply
           
  6. WalMart’s big rise in the ’80s was because they were early adopters of information technology. When I worked for one in the early ’90s it had a sophisticated, for the time, in-store computer system and a satellite uplink to connect to the home office computers. It was quaint by modern standards. The link to the home office wasn’t continuous, but rather a daily data burst. But for 1990, this was pretty amazing. This gave WalMart better inventory management than anyone else, which is why it was able to sell everything cheaper. KMart was its most important direct competitor, filling the precise same market niche. KMart never knew what hit it.

    Everyone has caught up with WalMart at this point, and it long ago transitioned from leveraging its tech advantages into lower prices to leveraging its quasi-monopsony powers to put the squeeze on suppliers. Over the long haul this means it carries cheap crap, sometimes carrying the brand name of an otherwise reputable manufacturer. This is one reason why I avoid shopping there.

    I don’t see any hope for KMart. What niche can it occupy? If it tries to match WalMart, it runs head-on into that monolith. If it tries to be a step above WalMart, it runs into Target. A step lower, and the various dollar stores. With no vacant niche, it would have to spend boatloads of money to get a foothold. In bricks-and-mortar low-margin discount stores? Who is going to put up the money for that? The big question nowadays is whether WalMart will make the transition to online retail, competing with Amazon. They haven’t managed it yet, but they have a lot of resources to throw at the problem.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
    • I think Walmart also has long had a real estate angle built around purchasing a lot of land around the store. The excess land can then be leased to other stores to help pay for the build or as a continual source of rents. They expend a lot more resources in identifying land for this type of large-scale commercial development, and obtaining tenants that compliment and don’t compete with its business.

      It pretty much puts Walmart in a different type of business than most other large stores, and particularly K-Mart with store locations that are often in older, less desirable locations.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
      • One of the slams on Walmart, before they started to build in more urbanized areas, was that they would be a supercenter a short distance away from where they had an existing store then basically abandon that existing store, leaving a sizeable strip mall dead zone. (or more if they merged a few stores in the area into the supercenter)

        So if they have an angle on commercial real estate, they’re not doing a good job at it, in my view.

        (as far as I can tell as well, for the new stores in more urbanized locations, they’re leasing those – but on good terms for them, because they are Wal Mart)

          Quote  Link

        Report

        Reply
         
        • Technically, I think Walmart rents all of its stores as a tax-avoidance strategy, mostly from its own real estate investment trust in Delaware. If they are leasing from a third party, the approach is no doubt different and the lease terms I’ve seen are likely to contribute to a dead zone: low base rent, plus percentage of revenues and a loose abandonment clause means that when Walmart relocates, it can keep the property locked-up by paying a small monthly amount and providing security. That may not be great for property around old store; it may be great for property around the new.

          Walmart real estate revenues come from developing the space around its stores, which are drawn to the location because of Walmart foot traffic. I don’t think the traditional large retailers ever really took advantage of that: they had a store size in mind and looked for real estate that could accommodate that. If there was excess land, they may not purchase it, or they might treat it as a secondary negotiating point, but there was no real plan and the excess property might be leased as an afterthought.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          Reply
           
        • This process was going on in the ’90s. In their initial expansion into, say, Texas they had put in comparatively small stores in every town, thereby largely killing off most local retail. Then in the subsequent round they went for much larger stores. These weren’t necessary supercenters, which simply means a full grocery section. Either way, they would put in the large store in some central location and then shut down those smaller stores surrounding it. This wasn’t evil intend from the get go, but rather a complete indifference for the health of the communities where they were located: not their problem, in their capitalist splendor.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          Reply
           
  7. I’m with Lee here and Richard’s last paragraph here. What strikes me about essays like this, essays that mourn the death of small-town (usually but not always Midwestern) staples is that they strike me as special pleading and tribalism.

    There is a blog I’ve mentioned here called Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York covers the highlights of old New York that are getting crushed and turned into just another frozen yogurt place, just another fancy condo, just another bank branch.

    http://vanishingnewyork.blogspot.com/

    I have mixed feelings on Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York and/or the equivalents that spring up in another neighborhoods. On the one hand, nothing lasts forever and some stores featured have outlived their natural lifespans. Only the most old-school of writers still use typewriters and everyone is going digital for film these days even if there was a romance in the old developing darkrooms. Or some restaurant or other business where the owners were looking to retire (or died) and their kids did not want to take over but were still good. But there are also some true icons that are gone like the Roseland Ballroom and it is depressing to see how many bank branches can seemingly open on one city block because those are the only outfits that can afford the rent usually.

    But when I talk about this on the blog, the reaction has been generally unsympathetic because times just gotta move forward man.

    So tell me, why does K-Mart and Sears and any other small-town staple deserve more consideration than the Roseland Ballroom where millions of New Yorkers danced for decades, CBGB’s where some of the music iconic music debuted, or the old rickity Community Book Store in Cobble Hill.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
    • Special pleadings is right. People understandably want what they like about the past to remain but also desire the present and the future. The stores and businesses in Vanishing New York are a thing of the past because becoming a sole proprietor or partner in a low to mid end restaurant or store doesn’t provide a good living anymore to many people. If you want to preserve certain institutions than you need to create an economic and social system that favors these institutions above others.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
  8. I wanted to respond to the criticisms of this being business and the danger of nostalgia. I’m not saying Kmart should be around forever. Businesses close all the time. It very well might be time for Kmart to close. Speaking as someone who is libertarianish, I do believe that the market can dictate who lives and who doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have feelings for businesses or remember the good times associated with them. The market is not a place devoid of meaning; people give meaning to a lot of things that the market at one time or another deems not able to survive.

    Nostalgia can be a problem, but it is also a reminder of maybe something or someone that was lost. My sadness at Kmart is tied up with an era when the part of Michigan where I grew up was still vibrant with the auto industry. Nostalgia is dangerous if it prevents you from moving forward, but it can be a way to grieve what has been lost.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
    • Dennis,
      Unfounded Grief itself is poison, and comes from a fear of death that self-aware humans try to free themselves from.
      There are many things in this world that keep clattering on well past when they should have fallen apart, because people extend their natural fear of Their Own Death to Every Goddamn Enterprise They Deal With.

      Charities, for what it’s worth, are a hell of a lot more prone to this than corporations.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
    • There’s also the frustration of seeing something bad, or sad, happen when it doesn’t need to.

      KMart didn’t need to fail. It could have been saved. It could have thrived, even. Instead, its leaders made short-sighted decisions and this is the result.

      I don’t see anything wrong with using KMart as a milepost along the “transformation of non-urban America” journey that, I suspect, a large number of Clinton voters have either missed completely, or underestimated the importance of.

      I’m not saying that people got sad about their KMarts closing and therefore voted for Trump, but a measure of understanding about why they were sad about their KMarts closing and a plan for some way to get to a better tomorrow might have persuaded just enough of them to not vote for Trump that things might have been different last November.

      “Too bad for you, KMart shoppers, but there’s a blue light special on Rural Economic Failure,” isn’t going to bridge any gaps over the Great Sort.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
      • Fair enough on the stuff regarding the transformation of rural America but a lot of people also feel like their urban America has changed from them. There are powerful impulses in the United States that make us treat cities as transitory places. They are either for the very rich or for young people before the settle down and marry and move to the burbs.

        But tens of millions of Americans grew up in cities and many of these Americans are just as marginalized or even more marginalized than rural Americans. They are often people of color and also often poor. But they are told nothing lasts forever and you have to get used to gentrification.

        So who gets to decide who fails and when? How many sole proprietorships in American cities could have been saved from high rents? There are lots of businesses that fold because the owners want to move on or just aren’t offering a product that people want anymore but I also hear a lot of stories like “We were doing really well but our landlord jacked up the rent to something unreasonable” or “This bar or pizza place did well when there were a lot of apartments in the neighborhood but now all the buildings are being reconverted to single family homes and we don’t get enough foot traffic.”

        My issue is not the nostalgia of things gone by. My issue is the inconsistent empathy on the issue. And I’ve seen a lot of people from the blue corner say we need to understand rural America, it is what makes Hillbilly Elegy a bestseller but I don’t ever see it returned in kind.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        Reply
         
        • Saul, I suspect that all has a lot to do with as you put it once, your priors. I find that you assume a lot about where people are coming from that is not always warranted. I despise gentrification and I think it’s equally tragic that the inner cities and downtowns, once so vibrant, have decayed. If not more so, because while this is a matter of personal taste, in terms of culture and architecture alone there’s a hell of a lot more of worth in an old theater or ballroom than in a JC Penney store. And this decline is not only true in New York City but in smaller cities and large towns across America. I suspect that many of the reasons why are very similar to the reasons why the old department store models are going out of business, we’re just a bit farther down the road now than we were a few decades ago.

          But you know what, I don’t personally write about the decline of the inner city, because it is not what I know. I know, like Dennis does it seems, KMart and JC Penney and thus that is what I tend write about. Writers are supposed to write what they know. We are talking about our little slice of life for those who are interested in that (if anyone). We’re capturing a piece of our experience that was shared by millions of people and while some may not find it particularly poetic, it’s what we lived. And it’s ok to write about that. You view that through your own lens as you are, of course, entitled to, but I’m not playing along with this pretense where we are biased because “nostalgia”, and you are somehow immune from bias and some sort of neutral observer.

          Entire books are written on subjects like these and this expectation that people are able to write these all-encompassing treatises on exceedingly complex subjects including every viewpoint and every human life experience ever – that’s not what POV essays are supposed to be. Just because Dennis didn’t happen to cover every square inch of territory in a brief essay doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about those things or that he thinks his way is superior or more worthy of salvation or political consideration.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          Reply
           
      • K-Mart isn’t rural though; its primarily an urban retailer, with a relatively high Black and Hispanic customer base. This is from 2002:

        Kmart’s best hope for survival lies in a core group of several hundred stores in urban areas, far from any Wal-Mart and Target outlets. “Their urban locations provide a level of convenience that’s potentially unmatched,” says Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst Emme P. Kozloff. “Wal-Mart and Target won’t go into those areas.” Plus, she adds, Kmart has very low-cost, long-term leases on those stores. Kmart hopes to dramatically boost sales and profits at its urban stores by adding a full assortment of groceries–including fresh meat, produce, and bakery products–tailored to each community’s ethnic mix. If Kmart executes this play correctly, it stands a good chance of success.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        Reply
         
        • There was a huge K-Mart right near the Astor Place subway stop in NYC. I think its core customers were probably generations of NYU students and maybe New School Students.

          I never knew what K-Marts niche was. Target had the young to youngish but broke college graduate crowd/vibe. Walmart was exurban. Costco suburban and then K-Mart.

          What I will say is that the big stores like K-Mart/Walmart tend to also become social centers where they are and often because there is nothing else. IDK if anyone is going to morn the death of the East Village K-Mart like they would morn the death of a local bookstore in NYC.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          Reply
           
  9. Far from me to seem to be praising Romney, but….

    …Lampert is just doing what Bain Capital did. It identified something (Sears) that was worth much less than the sum of its parts (real state, certain brands, distribution networks, old copyrights) and he is just bringing out that value (at a big profit for himself) out from the crushing weight of a failed company.

    At the end of the day, it is better in the aggregate for the real state to be repurposed to more productive uses, the good brands to be untainted from the failed one, etc.

    Could Sears have been saved? Perhaps. I grew up in a time when Sears was the best place ever. But I won’t miss it if it goes away (and there’s one not two miles from my home (*) where I buy my car batteries and got most of my kitchen appliances). There’s already too many companies doing the same thing, at least in my big city life.

    (*) I’m convinced the only reason that Sears store does not close is that it controls a big lot literally in the wrong sidewalk from very valuable real state (Shepherd just across the street from the Garden Oaks-Oak Forest super neighborhood, for Houstonians here). GOOF has been one of the fastest value appreciating areas in Houston. I’m sure Lampert is waiting for the magic to spill to his side of the street, and make this city’s real state deal of the year.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
    • I recently bought a new kitchen range, doing my bit for the durable goods stats. I never seriously considered buying it from Sears. Ten years ago that would have been an obvious choice, or at least option, but I have read too many horror stories about Sears delivery disasters. It probably would have gone just fine, but if things went south there seems not to be any mechanism left for fixing it. I also wonder about Sears’ own brands, and if they haven’t let the quality slip in an effort to cut costs. I have no specific information about this happening, but it is the sort of thing corporations do under these circumstances.

      I ended up going to Lowes. It could just have easily been Home Depot. They are nearly adjacent to one another, and I consider them functionally identical. It was delivered the next Saturday, on time and with no problem. I’m pretty sure the delivery was subcontracted out, but they were fine.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
      • When I was a kid, all our appliances were Kenmores.

        I doubt I’d buy the brand now.

        I’m not sure what brand I WILL buy when the current range/fridge/washer and dryer crap out; everyone I know who has bought appliances in the past 5 years has some kind of horror story about the first one they bought being no good, or it dying within weeks of delivery, or some such. I’m not rich enough for Sub-Zero or whatever the prestige brands are: so I guess that’s the choice now, go into eternal debt for a prestige brand or play Russian roulette with buying a new fridge that might leave you with a puddle of meltwater and spoiled food a month after you buy it.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        Reply
         
        • We replaced the fridge about five years ago. It has worked just fine. We’ve had the new range several weeks now with no problem. I suspect selection bias in those horror stories. In any case, the question is not so much did this happen, but how did the manufacturer and/or store respond?

            Quote  Link

          Report

          Reply
           
          • In most cases, they had a new whatever within a few weeks. But I find even low-level logistics foul-ups totally undo me. And going weeks without a functional fridge would be a major issue for me. (I’d probably wind up buying one of those damn dorm cube-fridges and trying to live with that)

            The heating unit recently failed in my parents’ 25-year-old oven. My mom called the repair guy they’ve used for years and sheepishly asked him if it was worth replacing. The repair guy said, “On this model stove? I’d be committing malpractice to tell you to buy a new stove” and he came out and replaced the unit for about 1/4 the price of a new range/oven.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            Reply
             
        • One of the less usual considerations will be what processor, OS, and IP stack are running on it. One of the big names — LG perhaps? — has already announced that all of their household appliances will be wifi-capable and internet-aware. Has your new refrigerator been compromised? Has it been loaded up with some botnet software, or toolkits for cracking your personal computer? What mischief is it getting up to with your new washing machine of a different brand?

          The internet of things (that will leak all sorts of personal data) terrifies me.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          Reply
           
          • Oh, I guess I didn’t add that I will never buy a linkable appliance if I can avoid it, and if I HAVE to buy one I’m going to see what I can do to avoid linking/delink it. All my current stuff is “dumb” appliances (bought before the IoS) and I really don’t want to be a part of it

            I don’t need my refrigerator trolling me. Or my dishwasher sending me a text to remind me to unload it.

            (And that’s probably another thing: it will devolve to good-quality, high-end stuff all being Internet of S*** things that force you to link in to the Matrix, or it will be POS made badly for the people with no money and no internet)

              Quote  Link

            Report

            Reply
             
            • It is not clear how much longer it will be possible to buy a non-processor non-wireless appliance. Over the last 20 years, design has become more and more likely to include a system-on-chip plus a few sensors and actuators, with all of the control logic implemented in software. The other day I got e-mail about the latest Raspberry Pi product: the Pi Zero W. 1 Ghz CPU/GPU combination, 512 Mbyte main memory, as much non-volatile storage as you want, full wifi and Bluetooth, 40-pin header for IO, high-def HDMI output, high-res camera input. Quantity one price, $10. Lord knows what an equivalent costs LG when they buy them by the millions.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              Reply
               
  10. There was a Sears one town over from me growing up… a pretty big standalone one. We went decently often because it was my dad’s kind of store (not so much my mom) and it worked well for a firefighter/landscaper and school teacher trying to make it work with 4 kids.

    Anyway, it had a small tower section, maybe 8 stories tall? Probably not even. And it said “SEARS” in big letters. At the time I remember thinking, “The Sears Tower ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

    Photo here: http://www.roadarch.com/09/2/sears.jpg

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
  11. We quit going to Kmart when they failed to keep shelves stocked. We have a few Sears appliances around, but I don’t call Sears for support anymore. It’s been awhile since I did call, but I remember something about paying a lot in advance to skip visit charges in the future or paying a high visit charge.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
  12. We shopped at Meijer’s in Michigan. It was like a proto-Wal-Mart in that it had a section with clothing and housewares on one side of the store and a grocery store on the other.

    On Sundays, the section with clothing and housewares was dark and they put up flimsy barriers to keep customers from shopping in any section but the one with food.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
  13. You know, I went into the local K-mart the other day, needed some wrapping paper. Reasonably laid out, fullish shelves, reminded me of the few times I have been in a Wal-Mart. But the checkout… endless questions about applying for a credit card (“no thanks”), extra receipts for coupons (“save $5 on your next $65 purchase!), all in an obvious attempt to generate return customers.

    It doesn’t want to die, but it doesn’t know how to thrive. So it will keep going down the road it is on.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
  14. Sadly where I live as of last year I lost three Kmart stores and now it’s either walmart, target and meijer. Further more is I will only shop at target and meijer. I am a former associate of walmart and further more walmart is a joke of a retailer, no respect to customers or their associates. But yet their associates for Sam’s Club get a better hourly rate over walmart itself. Sorry walmart your prices don’t work for my wallet!

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
  15. You should not include the hash tag Kmart Australia this has nothing to do with Kmart Australia. Kmart Australia is worth 500 million and open more stores not closing them, it’s only the American Kmart closing as they can’t run a business right.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *