Kmart is traditionally regarded as the third largest discount retail brand in the US behind giants Walmart and Target, but it has been gradually fading into history over the past several years. Once the leading discounter in the country, it struggled for years to find a secure footing in the shadow of stronger rivals offering lower prices or more stylish goods. After two years of cutbacks and store closures, Kmart filed for bankruptcy protection in 2002, emerging a year later leaner, stronger and more focused on local markets. In a bold new development, the group announced plans in late 2004 to merge with Sears to create a dynamic new retail giant with annual sales then over $50bn. Both brands were hit hard by the economic downturn from 2008 onwards, and of the two Kmart has demonstrated a slightly more convincing recovery since 2010. However it continued to wrestle with declining sales and a chronic lack of investment in stores. As a result, Sears Holdings gradually edged towards bankruptcy. That process was finally triggered in 2018. Controlling shareholder Edward Lampert bought out a reduced collection of better performing stores under the banner of TransformCo, and the business continues to struggle on. As of mid 2020, fewer than 50 Kmart stores remain; down from some 2,200 outlets 20 years earlier. The chain continues to stock a small collection of its well-known exclusive clothing brands, such as Jaclyn Smith, Joe Boxer and Route 66.
Capsule checked 16th October 2020
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Adbrands Weekly Update 14th Aug 2014: Struggling US retailer Kmart named Alasdair James, previous commercial director of global operations at Tesco, as president & chief member officer. That role had been vacant, with Ed Lampert, owner and chairman of parent Sears Holdings, acting as de facto CEO of the business. Sears is attempting convert Kmart from a traditional retailer to more of a shopping club, signing up customers to its Shop Your Way members programme. Lampert said: "Alasdair will work closely with me and our business unit leaders to understand the preferences of Shop Your Way members who shop at Kmart. He will be responsible for the Kmart strategy, its performance and its continued transformation as an integrated retail format."
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