Kmart, granddaddy of the big box retail format, addressed fears yesterday that the brand’s recent struggles are fatal. Kmart CEO Eddie Lampert took to the pulpit to deny “recent reports” that the chain was near the end, a matter of great importance to hundreds of Kmart-anchored shopping centers across the US.
Reports have persisted over 2016 that the chain was in a free-fall, but Lampert took issue with the fears in a statement posted at Kmart parent Sears Holdings:
I also wanted to comment on the frequent false and exaggerated claims surrounding our Kmart business. Recent reports have suggested that Kmart will cease its operations. I can tell you that there are no plans and there have never been any plans to close the Kmart format. In fact, we’ve been working hard to make Kmart a more fun, engaging place to shop, powered by our integrated retail innovations and Shop Your Way. To report or suggest otherwise is irresponsible and is likely intended to do harm to our company to the benefit of those who seek to gain advantage from posting these inaccurate reports.
There are a few things that are very important for you to keep in mind. First, Kmart continues to operate over 700 stores. Second, a significant number of these stores are profitable and have been profitable for many years. Third, we have been clear that we are intent on improving the performance of our unprofitable stores and, if we cannot, we will close them. Actions to improve our store productivity, including reducing inventory stored in the stockrooms, are designed to make our stores easier to operate and to eliminate unproductive inventory and processes. Decisions to close stores are never easy, but we recognize that the way people are shopping is changing significantly. This is why we have made major investments in our online and mobile platforms and this is why our focus on serving members through Shop Your Way is so important.
Uber Partnership Touted
In what could become, if proven successful, a game-changer for shopping center parking space calculation formulas, the Shop Your Way customer-convenience program touted by Lampert leverages both Kmart and Sears brands and includes an innovative partnership with ride-sharing powerhouse Uber. Points and reward programs are used to tie ride-sharers and Uber drivers to the Kmart brand at the same time they shop among Kmart and Sears’s shelves.
Will the new customer-convenience programs rescue these troubled, venerable retail brands? Can Kmart and Sears innovate their way into the future? Can a recipe of hundreds of millions in loans from its CEO plus new ideas rescue Kmart? Answers to these questions are fast approaching, anticipated by landlords, managers and brokers from coast to coast.