Sears Holdings Corp. is debunking rumblings of Kmart’s demise, at least through the holiday season.
Sears Holdings, the parent company of the Sears and Kmart nameplates, on Thursday disclosed some of the discounter’s plans for helping consumers plan their gift-giving throughout the holiday season. The disclosures come a day after rumblings surfaced about the Kmart nameplate close to being shuttered. That came about after a Moody’s Investors Service downgrade of Sears Holdings’ speculative grade rating. The ratings agency, in writing about the parent firm’s cash burn rate and the need to monetize unencumbered real estate to fund the turnaround, also raised questions about the viability of the Kmart franchise.
Sears Holdings on Thursday said “Kmart is rolling out the wrapping paper and showing members and shoppers what they can expect from the retailer this holiday season.”
The parent company is hoping to make toy shopping easy at Kmart by putting together a curated top 15 list that it said is available both in the stores and on the discounter’s web site. Further helping consumers is the return of its “No Money Down Layaway” program, although participation in the layaway program online requires a down payment of 1 cent. The program is available through Nov. 26. Shoppers who make a $50 or more purchase toward layaway get an instant $10 discount. The company now has a “layaway and go” feature on its mobile app to allow scanning of items for the layaway program with a smartphone when in the store.
The discounter, a supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research for over a decade, is also bringing back its St. Jude Thanks and Giving campaign program that allows shoppers to give back. Kmart last year sold 15,000 winter knit campaign hats that contributed to the $16.1 million in donations raised from shoppers and store associates. Since 2006 Kmart has raised more than $92.5 million for St. Jude. The new hat style for the 2016 campaign hasn’t been revealed.
Trying to reinforce the idea that it plans for Kmart to be around — at least for the holidays — isn’t exactly a new focus for Sears. Sears Holdings said in April it planned to close 78 stores, most of them Kmart sites, by mid-September.
At the end of August, Kmart began a rebranding initiative at its Des Plaines, Ill. store, with the aim of attracting a new Millennial audience. The rebranding of the store included a rollout of some new features. The features include a free personal concierge service, upgraded pharmacy and an aisle dedicated to low-priced items, limited-time-only deals and a selection of items priced at $1 each. The store also features enhanced apparel shops for some proprietary Kmart labels, such as Joe Boxer, Jaclyn Smith and Attention.