Store Closing: Kmart down to 3 stores after New Jersey closuring

AVENEL, New Jersey – Well-known attractions and sounds still exist: scratched and faded floor tiles, relentless beige-to-beige color combinations, infant clothes and refrigerators and almost everything in between.

There is even a canned recording that starts, “Beware, Kmart buyers” – in addition to reminding people of the precautions for COVID-19, not to warn them of an emergency sale of lingerie as before.

Many of the shelves are bare, however, at Kmart in Avenel, New Jersey, chosen by bargain hunters as the store prepares to close its doors on April 16th.

Once closed, the number of Kmarts in the US – once more than 2,000 – will be reduced to three in the US mainland and a few stores elsewhere, according to many reports, in a world now dominated by Walmart, Target and Amazon. .

The death of the middle-class suburb, 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of New York, is the story of the death of the discount department store written in small print.

“You always think about it because the shops are closing everywhere, but it’s still sad,” said cashier Michelle Yavorsky, who has worked at the Avenel store for two years. “I will miss the place. Lots of people shopped here.”

At its peak, Kmart sold product lines that were endorsed by celebrities Martha Stewart and Jaclyn Smith, sponsored NASCAR car races, and featured films such as “Rain Man” and “Beetlejuice.” His name was released on songs by artists from Eminem to the Beastie Boys and Hall & Oates. In 2003, Eminem bought a 29-room Detroit suburban mansion that once belonged to former Kmart president Chuck Conway.

The chain established a niche in American culture with its Blue Light Offers, a flashing blue sphere mounted on a pole that would motivate buyers into an ongoing discount sale. Part of its success was due to the early adoption of layway programs, which allowed non-credit customers to book items and pay in installments.

For a while, Kmart had a little bit of everything: You can shop for your kids’ back-to-school supplies, tune in to your car and grab a meal without leaving the premises.

“Kmart was part of America,” said Michael Lisicky, a Baltimore-based author who has written many books on the history of retail in the United States. “Everyone went to Kmart, whether you liked it or not. They had everything. They had toys. They had sportswear. They had candy. They had stationery. It was something for everyone. It was almost as social a visit as it was a shopping visit. You could “Spend hours here. And that just stained the American landscape over the years.”

The fall of Kmart was slow but steady, caused by years of declining sales, changes in shopping habits and the emerging shadow of Walmart, which coincidentally began its life within months of Kmart’s founding in 1962.

Having struggled to compete with Walmart’s low prices and state-of-the-art Target bids, Kmart filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early 2002 – becoming the largest US retailer to do so – and announced it would close more than 250 stores. .

A few years later, hedge fund executive Edward Lampert combined Sears and Kmart and promised to bring them back to their former glory, but Amazon’s recession and growing dominance helped derail those goals. Sears applied for Chapter 11 in 2018 and currently has a handful of stores in the US where it once had thousands.

Kmarts continues to operate in Westwood, New Jersey. Bridgehampton, Long Island, New York, and Miami.

It did not have to end there, according to Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia University in New York and former CEO of Sears Canada. Trying to compete with Walmart for the price was a foolish strategy, he said, and Lampert was criticized for having no retail history and seemed more interested in removing the assets of the two chains because of their monetary value.

“It’s a study of greed, greed and incompetence,” Cohen said. “Sears should never have left; Kmart was in a worse position, but not fatal. And now they are both gone.

“Retailers sometimes go to the margins because they sell things that people do not want to buy,” he said. “In the case of Kmart, everything they sell, people buy but they buy from Walmart and Target.”

Transformco, which owns Kmart and Sears, did not respond to a request for comment, and a company-specific phone number was not received.

Nationwide, some former Kmarts remain vacant, while others have been replaced by other large stores, gyms, self-storage facilities and even churches. A former location in Colorado Springs, Colorado, it is now a popular movie theater for food.

Kmart employees at Avenel discovered last month that the store would close.

Unlike 20 years ago, when news of Kmart’s impending closure across the country sparked a burst of support from loyal buyers and a Detroit radio station launched a campaign to try to save a local store, closing the site Avenel was treated mainly with resignation air.

“It may be a little nostalgic because I’ve lived in this area all my life, but it’s just another retail store closing,” said Jim Schaber, a resident of nearby Iselin, who said his brother worked in the footwear department at Kmart for years. “It’s just another sign that people are shopping online and not going out to retail.”

The closure was a bit more of an emotional blow to Mike Jerdonek, a truck driver who remembered his shopping at Kmart in Brooklyn and Queens in his later years.

“It’s like the story is right in front of our eyes,” he said as he sat in his car outside the Avenel store. “When I was younger I had no money, so it was a good place to shop because the prices were cheap. And to see it disappear now is a bit sad.”

Copyright © 2022 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Store Closing: Kmart down to 3 stores after New Jersey closuring Source link Store Closing: Kmart down to 3 stores after New Jersey closuring

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