AVENEL, NJ – Familiar scenes and sounds are still there: disconnected and blurred floor tiles, a relentless beige-on-beige color scheme, baby clothes and refrigerators and everything in between.
There’s even a record that starts with “Attention, Kmart Shoppers” – this is just to remind people about the Govt-19 precautions and not to warn of flash sales on women’s underwear in the old days.
Many of the shelves are empty, however, at Kmart in Avenal, New Jersey.
In the retail world dominated by Walmart, Target and Amazon, according to several reports, the number of Kmarts in the United States – over 2,000 at a time – will drop by a third in the Continental US and there will be few stores elsewhere. .
The story of the demolition of a store in a middle-class suburb 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of New York City, and the death of the discount department store Rid Small.
“You’m always thinking about this, because the stores are completely closed, but it’s still sad,” said cashier Michael Yavorski, who worked at the Avenel store for 2 years. “I’m losing space. Lots of people were shopping here.
At its peak, Kmart sold product lines approved by celebrities Martha Stewart and Jacqueline Smith, sponsored NASCAR auto races and was mentioned in movies including “Rain Man” and “Beetlejuice”. It dropped the name in songs by artists from Eminem to Beastie Boys to Hall & Oates; In 2003, Eminem once bought a 29-room suburban Detroit mansion owned by former Kmart chairman Chuck Conway.
The chain secured a place in American culture with the Blue Light specials, a glowing blue ball mounted on a pole that would invite shoppers into a flash sale. Part of its success was the pre-acceptance of Lowe’s plans, which allowed non-credit customers to book items and pay them in installments.
For a while, Kmart had a little bit of everything: you could shop for your kids back to school, tune your car, and pick up food without leaving campus.
“Kmart was a part of America,” said Michael Lisicki, a Baltimore-based author who has authored several books on U.S. retail history. “Whether you like it or not, everyone went to Kmart. They had everything. You had toys. You had toys. You had candy. You had stationery. It was one for everyone. It was almost a community visit, just like a shopping visit. You can spend hours here. And these were points on the American landscape for many years.
Kmart’s decline was slow but steady, brought about by a drop in sales, changes in shopping habits, and the shadow of Walmart, which accidentally began its life a few months after Kmart was founded in 1962.
Struggling to keep up with Walmart’s low prices and Target’s trendy offers, Kmart filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early 2002 – becoming the largest U.S. retailer to take action – and announced the closure of more than 250 stores.
A few years later, hedge fund manager Edward Lambert joined Sears and Kmart and promised to return to their former glory, but the recession and Amazon’s dominance contributed to the derailment. Sears filed for Chapter 11 in 2018, and there are currently thousands of stores left in the United States.
Kmarts continues to operate in Westwood, New Jersey; Bridgehampton and Miami on Long Island, New York.
According to Mark Cohen, director of retail at Columbia University in New York and former CEO of Sears Canada, this does not have to be the case. He said trying to compete with Walmart on price was a foolish tactic, and Lambert was criticized for his lack of retail background and was too keen on disposing of the assets of the two chains for their monetary value.
“It’s a study of greed, greed and incompetence,” Cohen said. “Cheers should never go away; Kmart was in bad condition, but not in dangerous condition. Now they are both gone.
“Retailers sometimes fall by the wayside because they sell products that people don’t want to buy,” he continued. “As for Kmart, people buy everything they sell, but they buy it from Walmart and Target.”
Transformco, which owns Kmart and Sears, did not respond to feedback emails and did not pick up phone number messages listed for the company.
Across the country, some former Kmarts are vacant, while others have been replaced by other large box stores, fitness centers, self-storage facilities and churches. A former site in Colorado Springs, Colorado is now the famous Dine-in Theater.
Kmart employees at Avenal learned last month that the store would close.
Unlike 20 years ago, news of the impending Kmart closure across the country sparked support from loyal shoppers and the Detroit radio station mounted a campaign to try to save a local store, with the Avenel location most likely to close. Resignation wind.
“It may be a little nostalgic because I have lived in this area all my life, but it’s closing another retail store,” said Jim Schaefer, a resident of nearby Eisenhower who worked for many years in the shoe industry at his brother Kmart. “This is another sign that people are shopping online and not going out to retail stores.”
The completion gave an emotional punch to truck driver Mike Gerdonek, who recalled shopping at the Kmart and Queens in Brooklyn in his youth.
As Avenel sat in his car outside the store, he said, “History is passing before our eyes. “I had no money when I was young, so it was a good place to shop because the prices were cheap. Now to see that it is gone, it is kind of sad.