Monday, August 22, 2016

Anecdotal observations about Kmart (and VHS)

Back in late July, I wrote a post in my Empoprise-BI business blog that speculated about Kmart's future. Specifically, the post cited Kmart employee speculation that an in-house "path to profitability" effort to move inventory on to the sales floor was just the first step in closing Kmart stores.

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to visit a Kmart to see whether things were as dire as the selected employees were claiming. I went in there realizing that anecdotal evidence is not necessarily reliable, and that things that I observed on my visit may not be reflected in all Kmart stores. With that in mind, I approached the Kmart on East Fourth Street in Ontario a little after noon. The employees were nice enough, and the problems that one employee was having with a store computer may not necessarily mean anything. But after a few minutes of walking around this particular store, something struck me.

If I were to walk into a Costco or a Walmart on Sunday at noon, I would usually be fighting mobs of people. And while there were people in some sections of the Kmart, other sections were oddly empty and quiet. I was told later that traffic usually picked up in the afternoon, but it still seemed strange to be in a major store on a weekend afternoon and to see empty aisles in some places.

Another thing struck me. It did not appear that the stock rooms had been emptied to move everything on to the sales floor, although it seemed that there were an awful lot of mattresses in one section. On the other hand, going through electronics and other places, I was occasionally greeted with scenes like this:

However, it is possible to find certain items at Kmart.

(If you didn't see my July post in tymshft about VHS recorders and tapes, I speculated that even though VHS recorder manufacture ended this year, you'll probably still be able to buy the tapes for years to come.)

But the most troubling thing from my visit to Kmart wasn't something I saw, but something I heard. While in the electronics section, I heard the following scrap of conversation from a man:

Should we go over to Radio Shack?

When your business has a lower reputation than Radio Shack, things aren't looking good.