In a blog post Monday, Sears Holdings Corp. CEO Edward Lampert denied recent rumors that the company is planning to shutter Kmart stores, writing "Recent reports have suggested that Kmart will cease its operations. I can tell you that there are no plans and there have never been any plans to close the Kmart format... To report or suggest otherwise is irresponsible and is likely intended to do harm to our company to the benefit of those who seek to gain advantage from posting these inaccurate reports."
A similar scenario arose over the summer, when Alasdair James, Kmart’s president and chief member officer, and retail chief Gareth Glynne wrote a blog post rebutting reports that the struggling retailer was holding a fire sale of its inventory.
Sears Holdings itself did announce in April that it was closing 68 Kmart and 10 Sears stores nationwide in order to generate "a meaningful level of cash” as it liquidates store inventory and sells or subleases some of its real estate.
As Kmart struggles along as a shadow of its former self, it can be difficult to remember that it was once one of America’s premier retailers, and once a bigger player than even Wal-Mart Stores. Lampert took pains to note that there are still 700 Kmart stores in the U.S., that many of those are profitable, and that of those that aren’t, many will be closed while others rehabilitated: Last month, for example, Kmart unveiled its millennial-focused “Whole Lotta Awesome” concept store, another gasp for air and an acknowledgement of how retailers must fashion their stores to appeal to younger consumers expecting something more than stuff on shelves.
The first "Whole Lotta Awesome" store, located in Des Plaines, IL, features Shoparazzi (a free personal concierge service that collects items from Shop Your Way members' shopping lists), a new beauty bar, an upgraded pharmacy and the 'Happy to Help' customer service center, which includes a kid's shop offering toys and candy available for purchase via Shop Your Way points.
Shop Your Way, a free membership loyalty program that includes Sears shoppers, has been hailed as a top-notch omnichannel effort; Lampert also touted yet another forward-looking effort by Sears, its new partnership between Shop Your Way, Sears Auto Centers and ride-hailing startup Uber. "This is another example of how we are transforming Sears Holdings to focus on serving our Shop Your Way members in a wide variety of ways," he wrote. "You should expect additional partnerships over time emphasizing our Shop Your Way business and demonstrating ways that we will bring value to our members’ lives every day.
But even those innovations are hampered by the dismal conditions of Sears and Kmart stores, their many closings, and the deterioration of categories, like apparel, outside of the company’s still-popular appliance and tool brands.
"Actions to improve our store productivity, including reducing inventory stored in the stockrooms, are designed to make our stores easier to operate and to eliminate unproductive inventory and processes," Lampert writes. "Decisions to close stores are never easy, but we recognize that the way people are shopping is changing significantly."