Blog,  Marketing

5 Lessons that Sears and Kmart Could Have Learned from Online Business

It didn’t go unnoticed nor did it shock me that yet another big retailer has bit the dust. I have to admit that this one saddened me a bit. Without aging myself too badly, I am old enough to remember when Sears was THE place to go (especially for tools, appliances, and “manly” things) and Kmart was a savior for those families who didn’t have a lot of money to throw around. I still remember the twinge of sadness many years ago when the Kmart in my hometown closed.

The truth is the writing was on the wall in my mind as far back as ten years ago. You know…a timeframe where some major work could have been done to reverse the news we have splashed all over the news today.

Now I’m not foolish enough to think that the few things I list here are all they would have needed to survive. I understand that leadership woes and financials can have a huge impact as well. But let’s dive into the things that have stood out to me as boldly as the scene in Aquaman when he asks for permission to come aboard.

1. Give them what they want.

Lesssbehonest…. When is the last time that either of these entities asked either of us what would be cool to incorporate? They lost us somewhere between dingy stores, outdated products, and shitty store layouts. I’m sure they had the standard answer the survey on the receipt but have there ever been any deep dives that actually reached further out to see what they could do to swoon a 70s child back into their establishments. At a minimum, their once core audience is pretty easy to target with things from days gone by in commercials to get us in there so we get those receipts and complete the cheesy surveys.

In business, we are often so pre-occupied with what WE think is the best thing or what WE want to do that we completely forego the important person in the equation and that’s THEM.

In business, we are often so pre-occupied with what WE think is the best thing or what WE want to do that we completely forego the important person in the equation and that’s THEM.

2. Don’t be afraid to pivot.

Now I’ve actually been in these stores within the last year (again…appliances) so I’m familiar with the severe lack of pivot. Between the 70s and those visits, very little was done to brighten up the stores, improve the layout, improve the products, improve the customer service, or cater to any type of sense of style. And truth be told, I couldn’t begin to tell you who their target audience was any more. Talk about a dirty, dreary and ugly environment….

An example of a pivot done well is a store called Meijer in these here parts. Meijer used to be known as a grocery store back in the day. Then they started to branch out over time and now you can find damn near anything in there. But the bonus round is that they are obviously catering to the one stop shopper and the person who wants their stuff delivered to their house. Hello convenience. The stores are bright and are continually being upgraded. As a matter of fact one of their new stores has a clothing department that if you didn’t know better, you would think you were in Kohl’s. Ahhhh…atmosphere. And duh…of course they have Starbucks inside! Let’s get you juiced up while you’re in here sister so you buy more shit and stay longer. #genius

Pivoting sometimes gets a bad rap because some feel like it makes you look wishy washy and confuses people. Eh…it can. But if you are misaligned for yourself and misaligned with your audience needs staying in one place isn’t helping anyone.

3. Focus on what you’re good at.

Sears actually had a great opportunity to really laser in on the things people loved. They did some weird offspring in a nearby town that specialized in just a few things but at the end of the day I feel like they missed the mark…well obviously! People took their cars to Sears for work, they bought appliances and furniture there, and for some reason it was THE place to go for bedding and home goods at one point.

With some forward thinking, they could have redesigned and reconfigured to create a very welcoming atmosphere for those things. Can you imagine if they would have treated people going in for work on their vehicles to all kinds of special customer care options? Plus create an enticing environment for shopping since they are a captured audience……boom shaka laka.

And what if they would have made the furniture and appliance shopping experience a breeze compared to going to the furniture store? Oh oh1 And had friendly dependable salespeople? Oh Sally….that would have been the bees knees, the shiznit, the awesome sauce.

Recently, I caught myself in this trap because everyone says to diversify and blah blah blah. So I ended up frustrated and doing too much and was not focusing on my strengths. You know what happened when I started focusing back in on what I rock at? Attention to my brand started to build at an exponential rate. I started getting shout outs again and all is well in the world.

4. Brand is important.

Ohhhh sookie sookie now…. I don’t know if y’all remember but back in the day Target was NOT that sexy. Hey put the tomatoes down! It’s true. But you know how Target became so sexy even while keeping that ugly logo which I entirely understand?

They listened #1. They have what their people want nailed and they incorporate that into everything.


They listened #1. They have what their people want nailed and they incorporate that into everything.

Despite that ugly bullseye, they are epic at creating a feeling of fun and lightheartedness. Their brand is straight up DELIGHT. Their stores have evolved over time to meet the desires of their peeps. Right now they are bright and welcoming. And we all know about that end cap placement. Their brand gives you everything you do and DON’T need and you don’t even know until you’re in the car with a credit card receipt for $1,000….and you never grabbed the ONE thing you went in for.

Another genius brand we could all learn from? ALDI. You heard me sister. I am a connoisseur of ALDI. If there is a local ALDI I have been there. I will be the first to disclaim that some are still those dimly lit places you to go to and make sure you bring your mace BUT the new ones…..let the angels sing. They know their brand and they know who their audience is now.

Their new stores are well lit and bright. Positive juju to be had (well except from the cashier who should audition for the Yankees because she’s got one hell of an arm with those green beans!). Every time I go in there they’ve added to their organic and healthier options and they are STILL inexpensive. That is what their audience wants. Any place I can walk out of with two big bags of quality food for $30 has me swooning. I don’t care how rich I get….I’m heading to ALDI. As long as they can keep the customer care piece down with the increased traffic levels, they’ll be good for a long time.

Bottom line. People need to know who you are and what experience they are going to get with you and/or your products. And they need to be a very important part of the equation because if you are all flash but not meeting their needs, it doesn’t matter. People want to know who they are buying from and what’s in it for them.

5. Speak their language.

Oh Sears…you haven’t talked to me since like 1989. What happened between us? I thought we were tight. You lured me in with bedding. I added an appliance. But then…you stopped even trying to lure me in. Much like a bad boyfriend you let yourself go. And when you did talk to me, it was dirty…as in clothes from the 1960s and the cheapest version of the thing-a-ma-jig you could put on your shelves. You could have cared less what momma liked.

And Kmart…you had the “in” brands oh so long ago. You just stopped showing up for me and stopped telling me what you even had to offer.

Here’s the dealio. Imagine you are on a date and the guy you’re with is talking about Marvel movies the entire time and you like sappy romances. Then he proceeds to talk about baseball and you’re a football girl…or you hate sports. He doesn’t bother to even ask if you care about those things. And you don’t get in a word edgewise so he has no clue how to talk to you. Think you’ll go out with him again? Likely not unless you like men who could care less what you like. Point made.

Imagine you are on a date and the guy you’re with is talking about Marvel movies the entire time and you like sappy romances. Then he proceeds to talk about baseball and you’re a football girl…or you hate sports. He doesn’t bother to even ask if you care about those things. And you don’t get in a word edgewise so he has no clue how to talk to you. Think you’ll go out with him again? Likely not unless you like men who could care less what you like.

For me, this whole thing was imminent but it doesn’t have to be for your business. If you struggle and you see some of these things in your own business the good news is that you can fix it. All you have to do is accept and change it and then unleash your new greatness out into the world.

If all of that feels super intimidating and you’re wondering if coaching would be a good fit, I am taking limited clients in my 1:1 programs where you get support with your strategy, marketing and those mindset woes from little ol’ me. And yes, I bring jokes! Check out my latest packages at http://businessmojoandmargaritas.com/coaching. Let’s get on the phone!

2 Comments

  • Michele

    Suzanne, this is a fantastic article. You’re speaking to me Sista, you’re 100% correct, we want to work with people and businesses that care about us. It can be easy to get caught in the trap of focusing on the items that we personally want to achieve, but it may not at all be what our clients want us to achieve! Enjoy your day.

    • Suzanne Proksa

      I’m so glad this speaks to you! It is not uncommon to do exactly as you mention. We love what we love and get focused on what we want to do and innocently forget that other people aren’t focused on the same things.

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