The last days of Kmart


By Jason Hawk - jhawk@civitasmedia.com



Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Super Kmart on Cooper Foster Park Road is among the last to remain open in a recent spate of closures for the onetime retail giant, which continues to shrink nationwide.


It’s among the last remaining open in Northeast Ohio, but the end is rapidly approaching for Super Kmart on Cooper Foster Park Road.

With about a month of life left before the doors close forever, the store is festooned with going-out-of-business signs advertising deep discounts and warning all sales are final.

The grocery side of the complex is all but wiped out. Fresh produce, meats, seafood, and bakery items are gone. Refrigeration units are dark. Mainly nonperishables remain on shelves, but entire aisles have been abandoned.

The electronics department has been mostly picked over and furniture stock is disappearing quickly. Clothes, toys, and some housewares are being consolidated in the center of the store as stock dwindles.

Employees said they don’t know exactly when the store will shut down, but it’s looking like Sept. 18.

Sears said in April it would close 78 stores, including 68 Kmart locations.

The Cooper Foster location on Amherst’s northern border is just one of two the company decreed would stay open until September, while others folded in late July.

Ohio was among the harder-hit states, with seven stores closing, all but one under the Kmart banner.

Already closed are the Marion Sears and Kmarts in Ashtabula, Eaton, Fremont, Lima, and Springboro.

Onetime Kmart stronghold Pennsylvania saw six locations (and two more Sears stores) close in late July. Also hard-hit were Illinois, North Carolina, Alabama, and Kentucky.

Late last month, the once-mega retailer tried to deny reports that it’s being completely shut down through “stealth liquidations” at its warehouses.

A July 23 report by Business Insider said sources who work at the retailer believe the remaining 941 Kmart stores are being quietly purged of inventory in a two-phase process.

They’ve remarked on how all merchandise is being moved to the sales floor, leaving stock rooms empty.

Kmart heads Alasdair James and Gareth Glynne responded with a corporate blog post saying it’s relaunched its brand in the past 12 months, “brought back Bluelight specials and started to make shopping fun again.”

They said the company’s focused on restoring profitability.

But sales at Sears dropped 8.3 percent this past quarter while same-store sales slid five percent at Kmart locations.

The company has recently launched a new television ad campaign targeting Millennials. A spot titled “An Apology to Neutered Pets” advertises lowered prices on dog and cat treats while another boasts back-to-school sales.

It’s been a long regression for Kmart, which just 25 years ago was stronger than Wal-Mart. Its revenue has now fallen to below four percent that of the Arkansas-based giant.

Kmart’s biggest decline came in 2008, when sales fell 6.1 percent. The chain saw minimal growth the following two years amid recession pressures (less than a percent rebound each year) but year-over-year sales have since continued to plunge.

When the Cooper Foster Super Kmart closes, all that will be left locally of its legacy is a name.

Kresge Drive in Amherst is an homage to Sebastian Spering Kresge, who launched a five-and-dime empire in Detroit more than a century ago.

It blossomed into an empire and Kmart — using red, white, and blue motifs — married its identity to Americana.

Kmart operated on Kresge Drive in Amherst until 1993, when it made the short move just over the Lorain border.

In a way, that exodus was symbolic of the beginning of the end for the company, which floundered on devastating business model changes and acquisitions in the 1990s and filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2002.

Kmart’s nearest stores are now in Cleveland and Middleburg Heights, with others in Brunswick and Garfield Heights.

Sears and Kmart aren’t the only traditional brick-and-mortar brands struggling.

Macy’s, JCPenney, Best Buy, Sports Authority, Barns and Noble, Office Depot, Walgreens, The Gap, Aeropostale, and others have reported store closures.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Super Kmart on Cooper Foster Park Road is among the last to remain open in a recent spate of closures for the onetime retail giant, which continues to shrink nationwide.

http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2016/08/web1_DSC_3401-1.jpg

Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Super Kmart on Cooper Foster Park Road is among the last to remain open in a recent spate of closures for the onetime retail giant, which continues to shrink nationwide.

By Jason Hawk

jhawk@civitasmedia.com