The Softer Side of the Blue Light


SearsMart? K-Ears? They'll think of something as the $11 billion merger of the two retailers moves forward.

My instant analysis fails to see how this much helps Sears, unless it has basically moved into real estate speculation. Oh, and another thing, Target. Where crap does not litter the floor. Novel in a shopping experience. Bonus insight: Wal-Mart.

NEXT: Sweets for the Sweet

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  1. …unless it has basically moved into real estate speculation…

    That’s certainly what the press has been saying for a week or more now.

    November 9, 2004

    BY SANDRA GUY Business Reporter

    When Edward S. Lampert became impatient with his investment in Sears Roebuck and Co., he probably phoned real estate mogul Steven Roth to squeeze value out of the slumping retailer…

  2. Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard too. Apparently, The Big Ol’ K is sitting on some prime RE, much of which, according to reports, has been viewed as undervalued for years.

    Another speculation is that K-Sears will become a smaller, more efficient corporation, rather than expand.

    As for the “Target: Where Crap Doesn’t Litter the Floors” muse (and the subsequent WalMart mention), a couple of candid, fleeting observations:

    Yes, Target may be cleaner than K-Mart, but, well, alot of people still seem to go there, at least at many of the K’s that I see. I still go to K-Mart, for several reasons. First, because of its location. Second, because the parking lot and checkout lines are never as crowded as WallyMart. Third, the prices are actually reasonable, especially when stuff goes on sale. Fourth, because many of Martha’s products are a great deal…unlike Target’s Michael Graves Collection, which is, for the most part, unnecessary aesthetic variations on household items, sold at a premium that is not worth it.

    K-Mart seems depressing, but, unless it’s a newer WalMart, or a SuperDuperWalMart, then WalMart is even more depressing. The crippled/old/retarded people greeting you at the door. The stench, somewhere between Dollar Tree and School Cafeteria. And enough White Trash to fill a Nascar convention. And don’t even think about frequenting walmart on a friday or saturday night…that place, especially the parking lot, turns into a good ol’ fashioned country redneck jamboree.

    Methinks I can deal with a bit of junk on the floor over at Big K.

  3. There’s obviously only one right name for the new stores. In the infamous words of Bruce Campbell: Shop SMART! Shop S-Mart!

  4. Can’t we all see that these stores are EEEEVIL?! I would much rather pay five times as much at the local “Mom ‘n Pop” store on my local mainstreet than pump more money into these soul-destroying behemoths!

    Oh, wait, I don’t think Chicago has a mainstreet..

    And everything is already five times as much downtown..


  5. Will Sears now spin off their recent acquisition of Lands End? It’s been a very bad fit, but it’s an even worse one with KMart – a culture clash of titanic proportions. On the other hand, Marks & Spencer did own Brooks Bros. for a while, and B^2 managed to survive with its upscale image unscathed.

  6. Well, they need to do something to compete with Mall-Wart. Sure they have smelly retards working there, but Mall-Wart is open late Sundays.

    Sears was sort of a man’s store: more hardware than clothes, names like Craftsman? and Die-Hard?. But the feminization of America has reduced the number of people who can cut a dado in the morning and replace motor brushes at night. So Sears’ niche evaporated (emasculated?) Maybe a merger with a company that never was a man’s store will help.

  7. How does crap plus crap equal more than crap? I’m sure some smart corporate guy can figure it out. I like going to Walmart exactly once a year to watch the damned shuffle around in their MGD Doritos sweatpants haze. Yeah, I’m a elitist or something. Number 3 forever!

  8. I shop KMart when I start getting nostalgic for products manufactured in the USA. I have no data, but generally, I seem to find more Made in USA labels at Big K than at Wally World, which, in my little town, might appropriately be renamed La Tienda Mexicana.

  9. E.W.,

    Have you ever been in a 24h Wal-Mart at about 3:00 in the morning? It’s an experience not soon forgotten, I’ll tell you….

  10. Wanna have fun on a Saturday night in Marshalltown, Iowa? Go to WalMart around eleven o’clock, stand in the middle of the store and holler “Cuidado! Es La Migra!” Then take bets on the fastest runners.

  11. Evan Williams,

    The wife of a friend of mine works for a halfway house program, and one of their activities for reintegrating the residents into the “normal” world was a field trip to Wal-Mart. One guy actually wound up lying face-down, licking the floor. I’m sure he fit right in there.

  12. But will they sell boomsticks?

    “Shop smart. Shop S-Mart.”

    God, I love that movie.

  13. WalMart at three AM. Talk about your Fellini casting calls…

  14. Hans, if you live in Chicagoland, Sears K-robuck is your hometown store.


  15. I haven’t shopped at a K-mart in a long time, and only go to Wal-Mart in emergencies. I cannot speak for the Martha Stewart collection, but I’ve never had buyers remorse over anything I’ve gotten at Target, and have with most things I got at K-mart back when I went there. I wouldn’t be suprised if their quality has improved, however. In Small Town South Carolina(tm) on the other hand, my mom reports the same K-mart beats Wal-Mart trend of less crowded, less rednecky, and more competent. But since their WalMart went SuperWalMart, it’s become one of the best supermarkets in town. I can say that as of last Christmas, they had the best beer selection in town.

    Was anybody else just utterly disappointed with the lack of analysis in last night’s Frontline about WalMart? They pretty much took everyone’s opinion at face value, except for the WalMart spokesdrone.

  16. Kroebucks sounds like a good name. They could take all the land, sell coffee, and offend the sensibilities of elitists.

    I bet the merger will result in… nothing much.

  17. I still go to K-Mart…because the parking lot and checkout lines are never as crowded as WallyMart.

    Evan Williams, was that intended for its irony? Kinda makes me think of Yogi Berra’s famous “No one goes to that restaurant anymore because it’s too crowded” line only in reverse! OTOH, your statement does help reflect one reason why a business does not have to be the most popular in its market to attract its own share of that market.

  18. There’s a funny thing about KMart lines. I go there now and then, and no matter which line I pick it is always the slowest. Let’s say there are 2 lines. One of them just has one person in front of me to buy a plastic spatula. The other has a dozen people. I get behind the lady buying the spatula.

    Well, first the barcode is damaged, so they have to send it back to get one that they can scan. Then the cash register doesn’t work. Then the credit card doesn’t work.

    Meanwhile, in the line with a dozen people bearing full shopping carts, they’ve brought in the winner of a nationwide “KMart A-Team” contest to process these people in record time. He’s handled all 12 customers in under 2 minutes, while my clerk is still trying to get a price check on the spatula.

    So I switch to the super-fast line. Well, Mr. Speedy is now on break, and a new trainee is working the line alone. My batteries won’t scan for some reason. Meanwhile, spatula girl’s caffeine has just kicked in, and now she’s processing people in record time. As soon as I stepped out of the line a whole bunch of people go to her checkout, and she’s getting them through effortlessly while my trainee can’t scan the barcode on some batteries.


  19. I don’t know if it’s just a northeast thing, but all the K Marts around here are staffed by people who couldn’t get hired at McDonald’s.

    beep…eighty seconds goes by…beep.

    I thought the Wal Mart Frontline was pretty good. They presented all side of every issue raised.

    The most interesting point they raised was that the Port of Long Beach receives $36 billion in manufactured goods each year, and ships out $3 billion in raw materials. Aren’t advanced economies supposed to work the opposite way?

    The most interesting point they missed was, when talking about Clinton pushing for permanent MFN status for China, they didn’t mention that Hillary used to be on the Wal Mart BOD.

  20. Aren’t advanced economies supposed to work the opposite way?

    Well there you go, joe, you’ve demonstrated that the US does not have an advanced economy! 🙂

  21. They prefer to be called S&M. Thank you.

  22. Well since WalMart does not operate in NYC, I guess I prefer KMart. But there’s always Conway–which makes KMart look like Brooks Bros.–with its miscellaneous children sprawled on the concrete floor and towering boxes of junk that can’t be sold at any price…

    I would much rather pay five times as much at the local “Mom ‘n Pop” store on my local mainstreet than pump more money into these soul-destroying behemoths!

    Five times? Are you sure? In actuality, many main street department stores put out of business by WalMart and its ilk have been replaced by dollar stores, charity shops and the like.

  23. Back when I was in high school there was a Super K (better than a big K). That thing was the best. It was in a pretty nice part of town and was open 24-7. Plus the horse outside cost just a penny. Just the thing for bored, intoxicated teenagers at 2 AM.

  24. The most interesting point they raised was that the Port of Long Beach receives $36 billion in manufactured goods each year, and ships out $3 billion in raw materials. Aren’t advanced economies supposed to work the opposite way?

    Joe, that’s how modern industrial economies worked in the 20th century. In my post-industrial job I’ve personally exported somewhere between $500,000 and $1,000,000 on a grand total of about 15 CDROMs. And a good portion of my raw materials were imported in the same way, or via FTP. None of it went out on a container ship.

  25. joe’s planning for the past. I look for the industrial version of New Urbanism, with a foundry only a short walk from the mine head, down at the end of Main Street. Support your local smelter!

  26. While I was watching Frontline last night, I just kept thinking “so what?”. And Joe, their anti-Walmart bent was pretty obvious, so quit acting like it was balanced.

  27. thoreau,

    Your description reminded me of Office Space, one of all too few recent movies I have really enjoyed. Thank you.

  28. Next, I would like to see a merger of Sears and K-Mart with WalMart, to form one discount-shopping mega-giant called KWears.

    Slogan: “We’re KWears. We’re here. Get used to it.”

  29. Thank you, Dave in Big D, I figured the answer was something like that.

    Lowdog, my impression watching the Frontline was “this doesn’t make me hate Wal Mart at all.”

    Some people can’t get through life without the reassuring glow of presumed media bias.

  30. Some of you actually shop at these horrid, tasteless places? Have your mergers, and eat them, too. It’s all too yucky for me.

  31. I’m so goddamn old I can remember when Kmart was the evil beast of the department store world, sending to their doom such venerable old stores as Grant’s and Montgomery Wards, among others.

    I wonder if I’ll still be around when some company comes along and mops the floor with Wal-Mart — a company named something like Shanghai-Mart, maybe…

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