Layaway was a big hit with consumers when the economy tanked, and it still is. Kmart, which is part of Sears Holding Corp., has observed that consumers use the option—which lets shoppers gradually pay for items they want to purchase—year round. The shift reflects America’s increasing focus on value, as well as careful, planned spending, said Kmart chief marketing officer Mark Snyder. But value isn’t the only focus for Kmart. Using digital and social media, the retailer is prompting teens and younger consumers to shop at its stores. Selena Gomez is launching an exclusive line of teen clothing in Kmart in July, and Jones Apparel Group’s GLO jeans and accessories recently hit stores. In an interview with Brandweek, Snyder, who hails from Holiday Inn, discussed layaway, teen apparel, and what’s new on the marketing front. Excerpts from that conversation are below.
Brandweek: You have a lot going on in terms of new product and marketing news for Kmart. Give us a sneak peek of what’s to come.
Mark Snyder: [The Kmart-exclusive brand] Jaclyn Smith—that’s really the big news this year. We’re celebrating her 25th anniversary with Kmart. That’s a celebrity-designed brand we’ve had for 25 years and I think she wins the award for that. Her collection this spring is about fresh energy, revolution, not to mention the style sense she has. We’ve got an expanded swimwear line from her and also one for Joe Boxer, which is exclusive to Kmart as well. Also, Top Light, a well-known apparel brand for men, has a lot of new, exciting news as well.
BW: What are some recent changes Kmart’s been rolling out in-store?
MS: One thing that just took place is the “Everyday Great Price” [strategy] we rolled out in January across all of our apparel categories, [particularly] on things that are [part of her] everyday, basic [clothing needs]. For example, with layering tees, we know she needs something that is high quality and at an everyday low price, something she can buy and not worry about going on sale tomorrow. [Consumers] can find that same value offer on men and kids’ clothing. That’s a key indicator in terms of us understanding our customers and what is important to them in the shopping experience. We’re also continuing to work with our stores to create a clutter-free environment, [where the aisles] are easy to navigate and where price point and brand are apparent.
BW: Selena Gomez is launching an exclusive line in Kmart, and Jones Apparel Group’s GLO line recently hit stores. Why the big focus on apparel? Is it a big category for Kmart?
MS: It’s a huge category for Kmart and, we believe, a business opportunity in terms of creating growth for the brand. The recession gave us the opportunity to represent to the customer why Kmart is relevant in terms of its offerings. So, for us to be able to go out at this point with an apparel story that really focuses on quality and value at the price point that we deliver is the right place for us to be. So, expect more from us in terms of great apparel news.
BW: Layaway was a big hit with consumers in 2008. Are you reviving that strategy this year? Is there a new twist? How successful was it?
MS: Our experience with our consumer shows that layaway has moved from being something that is of seasonal value and relevance to something she uses year round to plan for her family’s needs and expenses. So, she’s using it not just during the holidays, but during the springtime for patio furniture, grills, outdoor toys, swimming pools and things of that nature. And even during back-to-school, when you get into the July timeframe. She doesn’t really want to think about it at that point in time, but she is all about planning. So, from a planning perspective, she can go into the store in July, get the good stuff before it’s gone, put it into layaway, then, school starts again, she’s got it, paid for it and she’s ready to go. Layaway is truly an option we’ve given our customers that they’ve appreciated and that they’ve learned to use year-round.