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Kmart: On Course for July Ch. 11 Exit

NEW YORK — Kmart Corp. is still looking to exit from Chapter 11 next "July or possibly earlier," according to the bankrupt discounter’s chief financial officer.<br><br>Kmart’s cfo Al Koch, said, "If we’re not able to exit early...

NEW YORK — Kmart Corp. is still looking to exit from Chapter 11 next “July or possibly earlier,” according to the bankrupt discounter’s chief financial officer.

Kmart’s cfo Al Koch, said, “If we’re not able to exit early sometime next year, it’s not because we’re not ready. After we get through the major items that need to be resolved, such as reviewing the store base and the major contracts, there’s little more that we need from the bankruptcy process to help us with.”

He said Kmart has made progress in boosting in-stock levels and allocating merchandise: “We are controlling the inventory better, removing some of the slower-selling sku’s from the lineup and resetting the departments that have more of the higher-selling items.”

Koch said vendors have remained very supportive of the retailer, and that the company has been working diligently to solve issues that plagued it in the past. He said it’s also addressing some communications problems that have frustrated its vendors, including difficulties ascertaining the status of accounts payable.

In two weeks, the firm will unveil on its Web site video clips detailing the retailer’s progress on key initiatives. Jim Adamson, chairman and chief executive officer, already provides live monthly updates for company associates.

In another initiative to keep vendors better apprised, Kmart has established a toll-free telephone line (800-247-0200) for vendors only. “We have 200 staffers answering calls, with the majority answered within 20 seconds of the first ring,” said Bob House, who carries the title of “vice president, voice of the vendor.”

Kmart also distributes an average of two e-mails per week to its 7,000 vendors on its database and maintain an inbound e-mail system, at vendors@kmart.com, for the 2,000 vendor queries it receives each week, House said. Finally, there’s a Web site at vendorsupport.kmart.com with information on the restructuring.

The sites can be accessed by factors who have clients doing business with Kmart. Credit analysts, however, would need sponsorship from a financial group before access will be considered, according to House.