K-Mart: one of America’s medium-sized, discount retailers. As a kid, I loved going to the one K-Mart in my hometown not for the merchandise or the experience of shopping the actual store, but, rather, the mini-shop Caesar’s Pizza tucked away in the west corner of the store. What can I say? Like any kid I liked cheap, cheesy breadsticks that would accompany the $5-pizza dinner my mom might buy if I begged hard enough.
Considering that I’m considered part of retail’s new favorite shopper segment, Generation Y (i.e. Millenial shoppers), I guess I’m not alone in saying that my desire for those breadsticks was probably the last time I considered going into a K-Mart. Thankfully, K-Mart knows that about me–and my generation of influencers.
You can’t blame K-Mart for wanting to be cool, especially if that means appealing to a growing shopper segment such as Millenials, who boast enormous spending power and potential. Over the past few years, the retailer has struggled with trying to change their less-than-favorable reputation as placing value over quality with numerous strategies targeting the 18-34 crowd, including: celebrity partnerships launching custom collections, refreshing their dated website, and even taking part hyper-cool, national events such as New York Fashion Week.
Despite the brand’s best efforts, they’re still not hitting it off with the Millenial crowd. According to YouGov BrandIndex data, K-Mart is still lagging leagues behind competitors, and has done little to sway the highly desirable 18-34 age demographic. In addition, the retailer has had more than enough recent letdowns, including a scathing review of a NYC store from the Wall Street Journal, and decreasing same-store sales in five of the last six years.
Facing a pile of problems with their stores and overall brand identity, the retailer could almost justify throwing in the towel, but K-Mart isn’t about to give up the fight. After all, the retailer has a couple of things going for it–for one, they’re an established brand with national penetration (75% of Americans live within 15 miles of a store). Knowing that they have their work cut out for them, the discount retailer is starting to implement an ambitious plan meant to switch gears for the company, as well as attract younger shoppers.
The big to-do: reinventing the K-Mart brand as cool and valuable, rather than just a place to find cheap clothes. As always, it’s about cultivating an experience shoppers will desire and value when stepping into the store environment. The first step K-Mart has taken in achieving their goal is a revitalization of their celebrity partnerships, including recent collections with big names Selena Gomez and Sofia Vergara, which debuted last fall, and up-and-coming lines from stars Adam Levine and Nicki Minaj.
In addition to new, fashion-forward apparel lines with a crowd-drawing celebrity at the forefront, K-Mart is also delving into the fashion world with a new fashion blog, complete with a tool for users to make their own outfits online, similar to popular services such as Polyvore.
Finally, the retailer is also trying to corner the affordable fashion market by infiltrating the designer space–though they’ve been regular sponsors of NYC Fashion Week for the last five years, this past year they introduced “Kmart Concierge“, a service which delivers small essentials to the who’s-who of Fashion Week–designers, editors, bloggers and the like–upon request. Along with the service itself, K-Mart also unveiled an infomercial-parody video promoting Kmart Concierge, effectively utilizing a number of high-profile fashion-foward cameos and dramatic NYC locations. Effortlessly cool? Maybe not effortlessly, but effectively edited and produced in order to come off cool in the end.
So far, K-Mart’s recent efforts to dispel their bad rep from Millenials’ minds hasn’t been all that successful. Looking at the brand’s Recommend Score among 18-34 year-olds, their score has hovered between -10 and -30 since September 2012. K-Mart, H&M, Target and Kohl’s were rated using BrandIndex’s Recommend score which asks, “Would you recommend the brand to a friend?” The scores for this article were generated from a nationally representative sample of shoppers age 18 to 34. Compared to competitors such as Target and Kohl’s–who, arguably, are packing a lot more in their arsenal–it doesn’t look good, as they boast scores ranging from 50 to 80.
As of yet, there isn’t a whole lot of hope to look forward to for K-Mart. But they don’t need to revert to seeing potential only in Millenials’ penchant for greasy breadsticks. Like any sort of brand reinvigoration, these things take time. Just ask Ron Johnson. Here’s hoping K-Mart can turn things around so well that they can start being “cool” a whole lot faster.