“Exciting and full of energy” aren’t words usually associated with Kmart, which has been losing market share for years. Parent Sears Holdings Corp. has closed hundreds of units and vendor confidence is said to be shaky. Yet chief marketing officer Kelly Cook on Friday used those words to describe a high-profile initiative surrounding a brand of athletic shoes that the retailer is exclusively launching.
Cook said Kmart wants to up its game and shake things up with a capital S.
“We’re very close to our members,” Cook said. “They love cool, modern looks and great deals. We’re always monitoring the market to see who can meet the need for us. We found Risewear.”
For now, the line includes men’s basketball and athletic shoes, casual shoes and sandals. Women’s and kids’ shoes will be introduced for the holidays.
“People want diversity,” Cook said. “Rise can go from boys’ night out to date night. It’s extremely comfortable and there’s not a single product in the assortment priced over $45.” Kmart said comparable shoes would be twice the price.
Kmart is sponsoring The Rise Challenge, a series of fan-focused sporting entertainment events. An epic dunk contest will feature Risewear athlete and veteran dunker Taurian “Air Up There” Fontenette, along with the top-four dunkers in the world — Chris Staples, Guy Dupuy, Porter Maberry and Jonathan Clark.
The Rise Challenge will start with a party in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday.
The dunkers will compete on branded half-courts at six Kmart parking lots around the country, including locations in North Hollywood and Hayward, Calif.; Miami; Washington, D.C.; Jersey City, N.J., and Chicago.
Fans can get tickets to The Rise Challenge by downloading the Kmart app on a smartphone. Each download scores tickets for the smartphone owner and three friends.
Each of the six locations will have a live DJ, opportunities to meet the athletes and giveaways. At free customization stations, fans can add a unique laser-printed design to their new shoes, such as a name, number, hometown or initials, or have them airbrushed by a graffiti artist (a $200 value).
“Footwear and apparel are categories that are very strong for Kmart,” Cook said. “Our members love brag-worthy deals. Footwear is important to us. It’s something we’re focused on expanding. We’re looking for new things, especially in the ath-leisure space. We have ath-leisure apparel lines and want the extension of our footwear.”
The Rise Challenge marketing campaign includes digital, social media and experiential, Cook said. “Our Millennial members especially want the experience of products that are unique,” she said. “Products that blur the line between fashion and high performance are great. At these events we’re excited to bring things together — diverse pieces of footwear that are completely customizable.”