A new approach to appliances at Kmart

The market on Friday cheered a move by Kmart parent company Sears Holdings to cut 700 positions from the appliance departments at 225 stores. Shares of Sears Holding advanced $2.67 on Friday to close at $74.03 after news of the layoffs was reported Friday morning by the Wall Street Journal.

Kmart spokesman Chris Brathwaite was quoted as saying the move will allow customers to check out appliances at any register rather than going to a dedicated register for appliances. But there also won’t be any specialized appliance-only staff people on hand near appliances. Instead, all Kmart staffers are being trained to answer questions about appliances, according to Brathwaite. There will also be a 1-800 number customers can call for help.

That is hardly the type of customer service appliance shoppers are used to experiencing at such other leading appliance retailers as full-line Sears stores, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Best Buy or HH Gregg. The move makes sense for Kmart though, since its stores are hardly a destination for appliances, other than the type that fit on kitchen counters. These days, shoppers in the market for large appliances have done considerable online research and made up their mind about what model to buy before they set foot in the store. So the opportunity for a sales associate with minimal training at a Kmart store to influence a shopper’s purchase was quite low and therefore not worth the company’s investment in labor.

Kmart had expanded the number of stores with appliance departments to 1,300 stores from 270 stores in February.

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