Thursday, August 26, 2004

Bye Bye K-Mart

Last week K-Mart in Seaside announced that it was closing. Good riddance. 

A few years ago when Target came to town I thought (and even spoke aloud to Target employees) "If I was the manager of K-Mart I would be very afraid." K-Mart was a really sloppy store back then, but, believe it or not, when Target opened people were concerned that it would negatively impact K-Mart.

Actually, K-Mart cleaned up its act, for awhile anyway. It actually became a nice place to shop, well, nicer anyway. It still wasn't as nice as Target, but at least I wasn't tripping over Martha Stewart's linens when I walked through the aisles.

Now and then I'd find in K-Mart just the thing I needed, things that nobody else had. I found the perfect wall-mounted cordless phone that wouldn't fall off the hook when you bumped it. I found a terrific pair of shoes for $24 that has lasted me several years and are still going strong. I found a perfect little cell phone belt case. I got some great deals on DVDs.

But in the last year or so things started going downhill again. Shoes? They have the styles I want, at a great price, but never in my size. When I asked for help, I was told the person who had the keys to the shoe stock was off that day. DVDs? Locked up behind glass and no help to open it. A small fan to cool a small room? Only big ones available.

There's a big clearance sale going on now. I thought I'd check it out. All of the good stuff was only 10% off. Not even as good as many routine sale prices. The only thing I came away with was a pair of wiper blades, at 20% off.

It looks like the new tenant will be Home Depot. Some are afraid that it will unfairly compete with M&S Building Supply down the street, or (get this) with Orchard Supply. Get real. Both of these places could use some healthy competition. M&S has a mediocre selection, and if you're not a pro you'll be lucky to find an employee who understands the needs of the layman. 

And Orchard? It is clean and well laid out, but for a store that size it is amazing what they don't have. Take compact fluorescent light bulbs. In the last ten years they have gotten smaller, lighter and cheaper so that they'll fit almost anywhere. But Orchard still stocks only the largest and heaviest brands that hardly fit anywhere. One time I was looking for a recessed soap dish for the shower to replace a broken one. Nope, only recessed toilet paper holders. I finally found one at M&S.

And Orchard's staff is utterly worthless. I can't tell you how many times I've asked for help, only to be told "I don't know, I don't work in this department." So much for "We've got answers." And every time I get in a checkout line someone ahead of me is having trouble with a transaction and holds the line up for several minutes.

So competition would be a good thing, in my opinion. Orchard and M&S will either learn from K-Mart's mistakes and do a better job, or they will make K-Mart's mistakes and mercifully fade away.

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9/7/04 Addendum: OK, I made a mistake. I was in Orchard Supply yesterday and saw they had a good selection of compact Fluorescent light bulbs. They were all the same no-name brand, but many shapes and sizes were available. Mr. Toy takes a bite out of his hat.

But that's actually not what I went there for. I went for weed preventer. Last year I bought an 18 pound container for a little over $20. On the last three trips all they've had was a 6 pounder for $12.99, about 80-90 cents more per pound. Maybe Brintons.... 

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