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Where’s Kmart’s Cause Marketing Effort?

Sunday’s newspaper was clogged with flyers from most of the major retailers in my market; Macy’s, Walmart, Target, JC Penney, Sears, Kohl’s and Kmart. The first six listed all devoted at least some space in their sales flyers to their respective cause marketing efforts. Conspicuous by its absence was Kmart.

At left is the cause marketing campaign from Sears called Heroes at Home Wish Registry, which offers Sears gift cards to military members and the families registered in the program. Sears is the sponsor and founder of the campaign.

(Macy's campaign benefits Make-A-Wish, Target's benefit's St. Jude; JC Penney's benefits the Salvation Army Angel Tree, and Kohl's benefits Kohl's Cares for Kids).

I show this page from the Sears flyer because Sears Holdings owns the 1,327 or so Kmarts in operation. Indeed, go to either Sears.com or Kmart.com and you’ll see the overlap of the brands. Sears Holdings is publicly held, but controlled by billionaire-financier Eddie Lampert.

I think Kmart is a natural for cause marketing. But truth be told, Kmart’s positioning against its competitors has gotten lost in my mind.

The Kmart closest to my home is a little like a Walmart only the prices are closer to those at Target, only the merchandise at Kmart is less appealing. In my mind Walmart is cheap and Target is chic-cheap. So where does that leave Kmart?

A cause for Kmart would have to have lots of appeal, or be very broadly based. The Sears Heroes at Home campaign is very attractive. But I think the better model for Kmart may be Kohl’s, whose cause effort has generated $150 million for Kohl’s Cares for Kids, mainly by selling smart-looking and well-priced licensed plush toys, books, music, and other merchandise.

Kmart sells a couple of brand lines that probably keep it in business including Martha Stewart, Joe Boxer, and Jaclyn Smith. Given that, a well-branded line of merchandise benefiting a charity might be just the thing for a retailer that has long since lost its mojo.

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