Discount Retail Timeline.
Chapter 1. Brand Mismanagement.
Chapter 2. Not Knowing Its Customers.
Chapter 3. Underestimating Wal-Mart.
Chapter 4. Lousy Locations.
Chapter 5. Ignoring Store Appearance.
Chapter 6. Technology Aversion.
Chapter 7. Supply Chain Disconnect.
Chapter 8. Loss of Focus.
Chapter 9. Strategy du jour.
Chapter 10. Repeating the Same Mistakes.
Originally a chain of retail stores along the lines of F.W. Woolworth's "five and dime" outlets, the former Kresge's evolved into the larger Kmart in 1962, with 18 "super-stores." Wal-Mart began the same year with a single rural Arkansas location.
Kmart cruised along nicely for the first 25 years or so, but by the end of the 1970s profits began to dip, coincidental to Wal-Mart's ascendance.
Business journalist Marcia Layton Turner offers a remarkable, no-nonsense examination of Kmart's fall. Her carefully documented tale relies on reporting from the trade and general press, amplified by testimony and commentary from a number of expert witnesses. It's a grim story; reading it is somewhat akin to watching a train going off a mountain, but the tragedy of Kmart is a tale of human incompetence, ignorance, greed and hubris.
Here, according to Turner, are Kmart's 10 fatal mistakes: 1. Brand mismanagement; 2. Not knowing its customers; 3. Underestimating Wal-Mart; 4. Lousy locations; 5. Ignoring store appearance; 6. Technology aversion; 7. Supply chain disconnect; 8. Loss of focus; 9. Strategy du jour; 10. Repeating the same mistakes.
Squeezed by thrifty and technologically savvy Wal-Mart on one side, and trendy, more fashion forward Target on the other, one wonders if the once-mighty Kmart still has a prayer. Hard to say, but if the chain's immediate history of monumental mismanagement offers any clues, it's just a matter of time before Kmart flat-lines — barring a miracle. (The Miami Herald (circ: 327,000), Sept. 29, 2003)