Stores That You Wouldn't be Caught Dead In: Give Them a Chance!

I didn't get much done this weekend because of family gatherings (and spending 2 hours at the grocery store...no, I kid you not. That parking lot was craaaazy!), which means I have very limited time to get caught up with my insane school workload. I'll wax philosophical tonight while I still have the time. Later this week you'll get to read a "fluff" post of things I bought today (so much for my shopping ban).

Kmart was much maligned for mismanagement and the utter lack of style, the ugly stepchild of bargain chains. That's probably why it went into bankruptcy. If I recall correctly, things have gotten better since then; the Martha Stewart collection is a big reason why the chain is still breathing today. The Kmart in my neck of the woods is now cleaner and much better organized, but some of the old problems remain. The people who run Kmart appear to be either clueless about fashion trends or they do a very bad job interpreting them. Even their Basic Edition basics are unappealing; the fit just isn't right, and the prints are ugly. With the younger age set, I think the only redeeming qualities are the Thalia Sodi and Route 66 labels. Joe Boxer? Meh. Dickies? Not impressive.

As bad as things are, Kmart is a saving grace for people like my parents, who often can't afford to buy clothes from trendier (and more expensive) places. Even as I rant about how bad Kmart is, I have to admit that I've found some pretty good deals there, and they've remained in my closet for years and years. There's a shirtdress my mom bought for me more than 10 years ago. Then there's a rugby shirt that I picked out from a rack for $4, something that I still wear regularly year after year. Then there's a pair of Thomas McAn leather loafers--for all that it lacks in looks, it compensated with a surprising level comfort and sturdiness. There has to be more items, but I can't remember them all.

The point is, we've all got stores that we swore we wouldn't be caught dead in because the styles are so awful. If you've scored some good deals there once upon a time, the store doesn't smell, and it isn't all that decrepit, maybe it's time to give it another chance. Things might have improved since your last visit. Even if you can't find things for yourself, you might be able to find some for others. Even if the general state of the store is negative, there might be a few highlights you can exploit.

The styles offered by Kmart are far from hip, but at least they're trying. Nowadays, there are some pretty decent wrap dresses and career wear for women in their 30's to 50's. I haven't been able to find anything for myself recently, but I did find stuff that were perfect for my mom (I would never pass off ugly stuff to her). There's nothing better than a nice blouse that only costs $4. My dad one-upped me: last night my parents came home with at least 10 dress shirts for him at $1.50 each. Since he wears those to work all the time, it doesn't matter if the shirts are identical and nothing special.

All in all, I think the strengths of Kmart are in the housewares (especially the Martha Stewart ones), careerwear for men and women, and the Thalia Sodi label. The accessories are hit and miss. Everything else pretty much sucks.

What's your Kmart story? Is there another store where you've had a similar experience? What did you find when you went back for a visit?


buff said...

I'm very fortunate to live close by one of the Kmarts given a complete makeover 18 months ago.

The store is spotless and has a great appliance dept along with great clothing areas, large and uncramped for kids, women and men.

The store interior has clean lines and unobstructed view. You can't beat the quality or the prices.

True, the MS stuff brings quality and style to the store, but the Home Essentials line has been upgraded and updated.

And even Rachael Ray touts the blessings of Kmart on her show. A new partnership could be in the making if MS and Kmart's Eddie Lampert part ways.

Sales Rack Raider said...

Thanks, Buff! I almost forgot about the Home Essentials line. I liked it before the makeover, so I wonder how it looks now. Good excuse for me to head out there again =)

The Cheap Chica said...

i've found some pretty cute shoes out of kmart. the clothes, not so much. there some cute clothes here and there, but the fit of them is awful.

Sales Rack Raider said...

Yeah, the fit is terrible indeed. I can't tell if they aimed for "one size fits most" or if they're just bad at tailoring.

Marcy said...

Haven't been in to Ross in ages, and though I've gotten great deals there in the past I usually chalk it up as a place where "you only find good stuff if you have the time to look forever."

Well, the other day I was walking through as this one store is a connector into a small mall, and what happened to catch my eye but a gorgeous faux-wrap dress, exactly what I'd been thinking a day earlier that I wanted o try to find? I wound up buying 2, and they were $20 and $27 each.

And I am reminded yet again what a wonderful place Ross can be!

Anonymous said...

I too have re-discovered KMart in the last year or so. I had seen a somewhat cute piece of furniture in Budget Living and was surprised to see that it could be found at KMart. Not that I ever saw said piece of furniture in KMart, but it gave me the incentive to take a look.
I've managed to find some great deals on clearance. I got a couple of striped grosgrain ribbon belts for under a buck each, and I've gotten a couple of pairs of shoes for $3 there too. I was able to resist the temptation of bad taste and managed to leave behind the jelly shoes. I also bought a few pieces of maternity wear (for the distant future): a dress for $3 and a denim skirt for $1.50. There are some good clearance deals for men too. I found a Clash t-shirt for my husband for $2.
KMart still has a long way to go before I'll shop there on a regular basis, but I'm glad that it's an option for when I can't find what I need at Target or WalMart...

Anonymous said...

Last year I found a great brown suede blazer for $4 at Kmart on the clearance rack. It was nothing super trendy, but it's a great nice, basic jacket to throw on as part of an outfit and it looks much more expensive than it was!
Most of the fit for their clothes is terrible, though - even when something looks kind of cute, it fits badly. I saw some wrap dresses that seemed cute, but when I tried them on, they looked terribly unflattering.
I don't think you can beat Target for style at a good price, especially things that are on clearance.