Niagara Gazette

Bob Confer

August 6, 2013

CONFER: Jaclyn Smith is part of what's killing Kmart

Niagara Gazette — Sears Holding Corporation — the multinational formed by the 2005 marriage of Sears and Kmart — continues to prove itself unworthy to investors and shoppers alike.

The company’s stock price has dropped to just below $43 a share after having peaked at nearly $67 in November. Since 2005, SHC’s earnings have fallen from $49.1 billion to $39.9 billion — a 19 percent drop that was entirely unexpected because the Great Recession should have driven cost-conscious shoppers to Kmart in droves. In comparison, Walmart’s revenues increased by a whopping 42 percent over that same period.

Things have been so bad that 2011’s abysmal holiday sales called for closure of 120 stores last year. For that season, Kmart saw its sales drop by 4.4 percent, Sears by 6 percent. In stark contrast to that performance, the rest of the retail industry actually saw their Christmas sales rise by 5.6 percent.

So, why can’t SHC, a conglomerate possessed of two once-beloved chains, hang with the Walmarts, Targets, and Home Depots of the world?

The answer: Look no further than Jaclyn Smith.

Last week while shopping at the Wellsville Kmart I was startled to see that the face and name of the one-time Charlie’s Angels star were gracing the home products and apparel aisles. Nothing against the ageless beauty, but her ship sailed long ago. Her peak of celebrity was in the late 1970s and her fame has been spotty at best in the past three decades.

It’s awfully odd that an array of supposed advertising geniuses led by Chariman/CEO Edward Lampbert — who has a net worth of more than $3 billion and should know better — would build a major marketing campaign around someone who carries no meaning to anyone under the age of 45.

Sure, Baby Boomers and the oldest of Generation X (who all once fawned over Smith) may represent a large portion of Kmart shoppers, but young families and the prized 18 to 35 demographic — who represent the economy’s biggest and most-desired spenders — have no idea who she is. So, why would they feel compelled to buy anything that she endorses within the store? Any mass merchandiser that misses that crucial target audience – especially as badly as this — can count itself dead in the water.

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