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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Kmart failed itself and the community

Wednesday, May 7, 2003

"But Kmart's departure from Sikeston was a classic example of corporate stupidity..."

The once-mighty Kmart emerged from bankruptcy Tuesday after 15 months in financial purgatory. That means simply that the company arrived at a reorganization plan approved by a federal bankruptcy judge and will now conduct business in a downsized fashion. Others have come out of similar bankruptcies and continued to compete aggressively in the retail market. Only time will tell if the giant retailer Kmart follows that path.

Of course coming out of bankruptcy is a nice headline. But it doesn't do a damned thing for the Sikeston store they abandoned. I understand in fact that this week the Kmart building here was sold and will soon house a new business. But Kmart's departure from Sikeston was a classic example of corporate stupidity and our community, in some ways, was left holding the bag.

Here's why Kmart filed for bankruptcy - they were lazy, noncompetitive, out-of-date and too often staffed by people who did not have a clue what they were doing. They did not stock product adequately to service their customers and when it came to friendliness, they were not even in the same league with Wal-Mart.

Some feel that Kmart left Sikeston because they were paying a hefty monthly lease on their building. Others repeat the common refrain that they simply could not compete with Wal-Mart. But the bottom line on their departure here was a total lack of care and concern. It began at the top and filtered all the way to the entry level employee.

So how you ask could a company as big as Kmart - 2,114 stores at one time - reach a point of total incompetence. It was really easy. All you have to do is to ignore your customers and you'll follow the same path. That's a guarantee. Were I a betting man, I'd wager that the remaining 1,500 Kmarts will also falter in the long run unless there is some dramatic transformation in their corporate strategy. Unfortunately I have enough experience in the corporate world to know that change comes about at a snail's pace in that culture. A short 15 months of reorganization won't put them in Wal-Mart's league. That too is a guarantee.

Sorry I'm not overjoyed with the news of Kmart's return. Their departure from Sikeston leaves a bad taste in my mouth that will remain for a long while. Kmart helped to harm the image of our community by pulling up stakes and tucking their tails on the way out of town. And customers may blame it on a stale economy in Sikeston when in fact someone in Kmart's headquarters in Troy, Mich., had their head where the sun don't shine.

Good for the remaining Kmart employees. Good for the communities where they will remain. But don't expect this community to applaud your return to the marketplace. At the very least, we'd like an apology for approving incentives to make your Sikeston store profitable. Our tax dollars helped to construct your building. We deserved better.



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