Kmart takes the plunge


Joshua Sheperd, Staff Reporter

In February of 2020, the last Kmart in Manatee County will close its doors for the final time. This location has served the Bradenton-Sarasota area since 1993 but it has not survived the latest calls for downsizing from Transformco, the company’s new parent company. Since Sears Holdings’ filed for bankruptcy in 2018, the struggle to keep Kmart and Sears alive has grown ten-fold.

Between 2019 and 2020, 96 Kmart locations have closed or are set to close. With the company’s inability to fund and sustain so many locations across the county, the company has shifted its focus from closing stores to save money, to managing the remaining 182 Sears and Kmart stores around the nation. It is highly possible that more stores will close within the next few years.

Dead and gone: Kmart’s gardening center has not functioned in years. It once was bustling but shut down just a few years ago. “It’s gonna stay empty for a really long time,” commented junior Paul Kallis.

The slow death of big-box department stores Kmart and Sears are often considered to be tied to a larger event, dubbed the “retail apocalypse”. This term refers to the death of brick-and-mortar stores, especially those of large corporations, due to a variety of factors, which include the growing popularity of online shopping and the changing spending habits of modern shoppers. As this movement started gaining traction in 2010, it was strongly influenced by the state of the economy, which was still recovering from the Great Recession. In a time when many physical stores’ sales were beginning to dwindle, the inability of many consumers to buy even basic necessities jump-started the retail apocalypse and so began the closing of many physical retailers worldwide.

Where the Sears and Kmarts of the past were able to entice customers with competitive prices and “blue light sales”, the Sears and Kmarts of today have lost sight of the values they once stood for, in part caused by the struggles of an aging and shrinking consumer base. Online shopping is all the rage. Sites like Amazon, Ebay, Alibaba and Etsy have taken over, carving a patch of brick-and-mortar destruction in their wake. There was once a time where Kmart and Sears were among the largest physical retailers in the United States but other department stores like Target and Walmart have learned how to appeal to their customers and have flourished to fill the void left by Sears Holdings’ bankruptcy. With no clear goal for them to get back on track, the likelihood of a world where Kmart and Sears no longer exist is quickly growing.

“Walmart has everything that Kmart has and more, and Amazon has everything,” said junior Paul Kallis.

Today, instant gratification plays a huge role in consumers’ shopping habits. Shoppers want to buy things now and save money now but a chain reaction has occurred where other companies have taken over, causing Kmart and Sears to lose customers. This is causing a lack of income meaning fewer items can be sold on their shelves and customers find it more convenient to shop elsewhere to get their things. As a result of this, many turn to the internet. Loss of income means a shutdown of stores and bankruptcy and the eventual death of the businesses themselves.

“Our downfall was caused by competition. Many bigger corporations have better prices and more stores have opened that offer the same way we do,” stated a Kmart employee. On the topic of saving the company, the employee added, “It would probably be best to refresh our stock and reinvent the company in order to draw in a younger customer base.”