Can ‘Awesome’ Store of the Future Concept Make Kmart Cool?


Kmart Des Moines relaunch Whole Lotta Awesome #lifeisridiculouslyawesome

Kmart really, really (did we say really?) needs millennials to start shopping at its stores. The once-iconic and original discount chain—the largest store brand in the US just a generation ago—is fighting for its existence, along with parent Sears Holdings Corp.

So there’s no better time for Kmart to unveil a new retail experience and concept it’s calling a “Whole Lotta Awesome.” The intention: to win over members of Generation Y — or as Bloomberg puts it, “the $600 billion buying power of millennials” — who have put Kmart far down on their list of preferred bricks-and-mortar shopping destinations, not to mention e-commerce sites.

So on the last week of August at its long-standing store in Des Plaines, Ill., Kmart unveiled its store of the future and aspects of its “ongoing strategic marketing and rebranding initiative to provide enhanced, new and exclusive offerings to long-standing and loyal members, as well as a new millennial Kmart audience,” as Sears stated in a press release.

In addition to flashy launch elements such as having Chicago Bulls veteran Scottie Pippen on hand to sign autographs (and support Kmart’s exclusive distribution of the Risewear athleisure and basketball shoe collection it’s been promoting with the Rise Challenge tour; hashtags #risechallenge and #risewithkmart) and members of the city council of the Chicago suburb on hand for the ribbon-cutting, Kmart rolled out a number of nifty new store features.

We only know how to Rise to the top! #RiseWithKmart #RiseWithUs

A photo posted by Risewear (@rise_wear) on

Among them: “Shoparazzi,” a “free personal concierge service” that when provided with a customer’s shopping list, will do the shopping for you (if Kmart doesn’t carry the product, they will find it at another store and it will be waiting for you at checkout); an upgraded pharmacy staffed with a wellness consultant; and a nod to the success of dollar stores called “Aisle of WOW!” which Kmart describes as “a special section of the store dedicated to low-priced items, limited-time only ‘Real Deals’ and ‘Dollarpalooza,’ offering a wide selection of items, all priced at $1.”

There also are enhanced beauty, pet care and grocery sections; enhanced aesthetics and in-store design, typically not Kmart’s strong suit; and even the addition of a “full-service paint shop” for the DIY crowd featuring more than 1,500 colors. That last gambit makes sense as Kmart aims at an aging millennial generation that increasingly is becoming parents and homeowners addicted to Fixer Upper and other HGTV shows.

Chillin with execs from #kmart – #risechallenge #risewithkmart #risewithus

A photo posted by J. Love (@jloveofficial) on

Here’s how Kmart described new features at the Des Plaines store that could be coming to other Kmart locations depending on the response by customers:

• “Happy to Help” Center – an improved customer service center designed to better meet the needs of every customer, including a kid’s shop where they can get toys, candy and more with their parent’s Shop Your Way points – no money required!
• The launch of the Kmart new Brand Guarantee – every member is guaranteed a minimum of $100 in coupons in their app. Every single day.
• Our “Super 6” shop featuring six outrageously priced items and a fully stocked grocery section packed with local, fresh produce, all backed by Kmart’s “It’s FRESH or it’s FREE” guarantee.*
• A brand new beauty bar – stocked with well-known beauty brands and experts readily available to provide hair and skincare advice.
• Upgraded pharmacy – staffed with a wellness consultant to provide health advice and product recommendations.
• Enhanced brand apparel shops – popular Kmart brands you already know and love, including Joe Boxer®, Jaclyn Smith® and Attention®.
• A “sweet” candy section – showcasing local Chicago brands such as Ferrara®, Trolli®, Fannie May® and Pez®.
• Expanded pet care center – offering premium dog and cat food brands., tantalizing toys and treats for your pets, and fashionable accessories.
• Enhanced aesthetics – including new signage and wider aisles designed to make shopping easier and more engaging.

“We are excited about the re-launch of the Des Plaines store because it emphasizes our dedication to our members and it’s in our own backyard” Alasdair James, president of Chicago-headquartered Kmart, stated. “We want our members to know we are listening to their feedback and bringing them new products, deals and experiences they’ll love.”

What a gentleman! Love ya @scottiepippen @kmart members love you! #lifeisridiculouslyawesome #shoppingisfunagain

A photo posted by Kelly Cook (@runwayroadkill) on

Kelly Cook, Kmart’s chief marketing officer (middle, above, in the event’s catchy “Attention Kmart Shoppers” t-shirt and using the event’s #lifeisridiculouslyawesome hashtag) added: “In an effort to evolve the Kmart brand to better serve our members, we will continue these efforts to test and learn at our stores. Our goal is to deliver the best value, price, product and experience, and in doing so, we believe our members will keep coming back for more of A Whole Lotta Awesome!”

To be sure, the retailer is aware it faces strong headwinds. There’s no word about how Kmart plans to improve its e-commere channel, as millennials increasingly prefer to shop online and on their phones. And, of course, as part of Sears Holding, Kmart is faced with the company’s announcement in April that it planned to close 78 stores, most of them Kmarts, as well as Sears’ $9 billion in losses over the past four years.

Still, if the response to the Risewear collection and Rise Challenge is any indication, they may have a hit on their hands.

This really is a #wholelottaawesome #searslife #kmartswag #dontyouwishyouhadkickslikeme @kmart #risewithkmart

A photo posted by Rebecca Ann (@rkritzberg) on