Kmart doesn't effectively compete with Walmart or Target on any front. It's the most expensive of the three and consumers echo our experience of a dingy store, disgruntled employees, and unorganized stock. Kmart is known for its layaway policy, but few stores offer full-service grocery and additional services such as photo developing are absent.
Among the three major discount retailers we reviewed, Kmart is the weakest contender. This proved true for all the variables we assessed in our Kmart review, including price, selection, and shopping experience. The virtual shopping cart of 30 identical and like items we assembled at each chain came to a total of $2,092.82, more than $300 higher than Walmart and nearly $230 above Target. Our Kmart review found that the retailer often fails to register on consumers' radar, partly because locations are increasingly few and far between and also because of negative associations with the brand and its stores. An informal poll of shoppers indicated that many consider the physical facilities dirty and under-stocked, the staff indifferent, and the prices high. The range of departments and services at Kmart stores is less expansive than the competition's offerings. Kmart, for example, lacks vision and photo-developing services, does not offer in-store health clinics, and operates a full grocery department (with fresh produce, deli, and bakery) in only about two dozen stores. Its layaway program, meanwhile, is a claim to fame. Like other discount retailers, it sells clothing (including some celebrity lines), home goods, electronics, furniture, toys, health and beauty supplies, and more.
Our in-store shopping experience revealed many issues consumers raised in Kmart reviews. Cleanliness and organization were high on the list. We found no empty carts at the store's entrance nor any wipes or sanitizer to use on a cart we eventually came across abandoned mid-store. We also noticed that the store just didn't seem clean -- the floors were grimy, as were some of the toys. Items were out of place, price signage was often missing, the shelves looked bare, and the choices within each category of items were very limited. The handful of employees in evidence seemed listless and unwilling to answer questions. We also overheard one complaining about a customer and a cashier nearly begging for a break.
Kmart just doesn't play in the same league as Walmart and Target. Our shopping experience was poor, as were those of consumers we encountered and shoppers who have posted Kmart reviews online. On top of that, prices are relatively high. Better value can be had elsewhere.