What's To Love About Kmart

By Julie Rains on 6 December 2008 22 comments
Photo: Cosmic Kitty


Kmart isn't perfect. Compared to its mass-merchant counterparts, its merchandise selections are generally slimmer and prices higher. And, its retail execution can be sloppy (apparently coupons need to be presented with correlated products, like in the olden days, rather than matched with products by the point-of-sale system based on barcode technology; see Linsey's post, a shopper's recommendation on how to present coupons at Kmart, and an industry article mention that most large retailers in the U.S. adopted coupon-product matching technology in the 1990s). But, with a Kmart store close to me and congested drive to Target or Wal-Mart, I have discovered what to love about Kmart. Here are the bargains I've found. 
Joe Boxer socks
These are incredibly comfortable and durable socks. While other socks wear thin, Joe Boxer’s retain their thick, soft fabric. Other socks get holes; Joe Boxer remains hole-less. My son, who is generally oblivious to brand names (he once asked who the heck  Tommy Hilfiger was, after seeing the name emblazoned on his classmates’ clothing), asks for this store brand. The underwear is made nicely as well. 
Basic Editions shorts and pants
I’ve been buying these shorts and pants for years now. They are reasonably well-made and though I don’t think they would last forever, the clothing has lasted for the wear-time of my kids. I can often find these items on sale before the season ends, and recently bought a few pairs of pants for 40% off ($5.99 per pair); while I can sometimes find better bargains at children’s clothing consignment sales, being able to find inexpensive clothing in my children’s sizes nearly anytime is helpful. At the end of each season, I have picked up shorts for just a couple of dollars and, if needed, saved them for the next year; the loose fit and consistent sizing make the shorts easy to buy ahead and use later. (See this post on holding a children's clothing consignment sale, a great community fundraiser)
I have also bought ladies’ clothing made under the Basic Editions label for myself.
Route 66 jeans
These are well-constructed jeans; the shirts are also well-made and durable.  
Licensed t-shirts and sweatshirts
Affinity wear is something I can live without but it is nice to have a t-shirt and sweatshirt emblazoned with the names of my favorite teams, especially during basketball season. Having shopped at campus stores and frequented websites dedicated to team sports, I have found that Kmart’s tees, especially in the men’s department, are a pretty good deal. A nice t-shirt there will often run 50% less than similar ones at specialty shops. And, though my kids typically don’t like getting clothes for Christmas, they love getting clothes with the UNC Tar Heels logo.
There’s nearly always a shoe sale at Kmart, usually a buy one, get one 50% off. If you have children or are generally need 2 pairs of shoes at one time, rather than just one pair, this arrangement is a good deal. When my kids were younger and changing shoe sizes fairly often (it seems like every 3 to 6 months), shoes for Kmart were perfect: they wore out about the time I needed to replace them. Since then, I’ve had mixed results: some shoes have lasted a year or so; one pair, though, seemed to fall apart within a few days. I should mention though that I’ve had the same problem with name-brand, pricier shoes.
I’ve also bought shoes at Kmart for myself. My Cobbie Cuddlers have been reliable and comfortable shoes for a few years now. I’ve also noticed that Kmart carries shoes by Thom McAn, a brand that I remember considered trustworthy from my childhood. 
While I’d rather buy things that last forever, I’ve also paid a premium, even at sale prices, for clothing and shoes that I thought would last forever but didn’t. Getting a decent life on some everyday basics is nice.
Are there any great items that you buy at Kmart?
Average: 5 (2 votes)
Your rating: None

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Linsey Knerl's picture

If you can get past the other qualms that Kmart can often present, there are some good buys and merchandise that keep it an option for every day items.  I particularly like their Christmas decor this time of year, and if I find a good sale on their Martha Stewart Everyday line, I snag it.

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture

I like looking at KMart's clearance. I got my dining room table & chairs there last year for $50. I couldnt find a decent used set for that price! I do like their double coupon days, but I generally stick with the free items or the things I can get for pretty cheap. I got a lot of things yesterday for $2 :)

Guest's picture

Kmart has great deals on jewelry!

Guest's picture

that KMart sucks. and most of their clothes seem pretty heinous. But when i went for the super double days a month or two ago, i got a $4 (actually free using a doubled $2 Catalina coupon) camisole top that i like very much.

By the way, here's a link to a "friends and family" savings pass, good Sunday only: http://content.kmart.com/ue/home/1207FFEFAMFRNDS.pdf

Julie Rains's picture

Thanks for the ideas and link. For whatever reason (I think I have been  stocked up for a bit), I haven't bought Martha Stewart Home but love the fashion meets discount idea.Though I haven't bought what I might consider real jewelry there, I have found some serviceable watches.I've have noticed this type of table (solid wood, the ad says) but I don't need one right now.

Too bad Joe Boxer wasn't at Kmart when Rainman came out. I'll admit an affinity for private label apparel (Joe Boxer, Basic Editions, Route 66) , if not for fashion for durability.

Guest's picture

I have a major aversion to Kmart's clothing lines. Most of it is sub standard in construction and fabric, but I realize I may be more picky that most people.

What I do consistently find at Kmart is basic kitchen items that you can not get elsewhere and actually seem to be of very good quality. Most of the items are from the Martha Stewart lines. I have bought basic things like wine glasses, bottle pour spouts, shakers, glass containers etc. Many of these items are better quality than Target or Bed Bath & Beyond. I have also found some cosmetic and toiletries items that other stores quit carrying. Some of their garden items in the spring are still good quality.

We only have two Kmart stores left and both are in poor shape. They are both away from other stores so getting in and out is less of a headache.

Guest's picture

I couldn't agree with you more on the Joe Boxer line. I purchased their socks three years ago and still wear them - NO HOLES!

When I moved into my apartment and needed linens, I turned to their $4 bath towels. They produced a lot of lint when I first dried them but I still use them today, two years later.

Guest's picture

The belts there are cheap.

Guest's picture

I have bought Basic Edition and Lee shorts for women clearanced to $1 each. We bought a great prelit Christmas tree there several years ago that has turned out to be the best tree we've ever purchases. They also have some nice Christmas ornaments and IMO they decorate their display trees prettier than other stores. Hubby likes the Fireside house shoes and went back for another pair. My own have lasted 6 years so far! I love the Olan Mills photo studios that are in many of their stores.

Myscha Theriault's picture

There's one close by here. I'll have to check out the Joe Boxer socks for the hubster. He runs, and blows through socks like there's no tomorrow.

I second the unusual kitchen items and the Martha Stewart Everyday merchandise, although I haven't needed any of that for a while.

One deal I remember the Super K-Mart offering quite a bit when we lived by one was the 10 pound bags of chicken leg quarters for $2.50. Every few months they'd run that. Pretty slamming deal, if you ask me. They weren't always the best stocked though.

Guest's picture

I always check my KMart at the end of each season and have found great buys on yard furniture, gardening supplies, outdoor lighting, post holiday candy, home decor, sandals, bathing suits and beach towels, summer clothes (after July 4th), dress up clothes (after New Years). Pricing is clearly meant to move these things out.

The large kitchen area often has an ongoing clearance area where I have found super buys on cookware, serving items, silverware, baking supplies, and small appliances.

I have also bought sturdy, useful-though-not fancy furniture for a rental unit, often cheaper than at thrift shops.

Thanks, Julie, for the tips on socks and necessities.

Guest's picture

Why I like K-Mart. Where I live Wall Mart and K-Mart are only a quarter of a mile apart. Admittedly, I do have an aversion to Wall Mart, and avoid it if at all possible. But here's the clincher for me: I will ALWAYS stop at K-Mart first because parking is never a problem. At the Wall you always have to park in Outer Mongolia and hike a mile to get to the front door. I just don't love traffic jams that much!!!

Guest's picture

Am I the only person who has a love hate sort of relationship with Kmart and wishes they would kind of clean up their act and meet their actual potential as a retailer?
Sears owns them and seems to be like a boat anchor dragging them down. They were supposedly going to revamp all the stores and update the product offerings to be competitive with Target and Walmart. They put in new signage on our big Kmart in town and bought new black shopping carts, otherwise it was still run down with the same fixtures and flooring from the early 70's. Then they tore it down a year later.
If Kmart actually really updated some of their stores and started offering Kenmore, Craftsman and Lands End in some way at Kmart stores I think I would actually shop there quite often.

Julie Rains's picture

Lucille, I feel the same way as you do. I wish they could get everything right (consistently good products and service, maybe better in-store visuals) or more things right because the company has some redeeming qualities. Controlling retail execution at the store level is tricky but sometimes it seems like they aren't even trying.

Also, just to clarify about the socks --  (there may be more than one type of Joe Boxer socks), I have been getting the athletic socks for my sons. 

Guest's picture

I've got a love-hate relationship with Kmart as well. Right now the closest Walmarts are 20-30 minute drives, so I am usually faced with a choice between Kmart and Target. Parking makes a difference to me, too, in that at the closest Target, parking is always a zoo (it'd be ok if you *could* park in outer mongolia, but there's simply not enough parking, period!) while the Kmart always has ample parking.

Kmart usually beats Target on price, so it surprises me when people say their prices are higher (maybe that means they are higher than Walmart?). But the stores can be such a mess. (Of course, the closest Target to me is also always a mess, as are both the Walmarts within a reasonable distance!) Target always looks more up-to-date, but I sometimes feel with their clothing lines that they get *too* much into following the latest fashion trends, and if you don't happen to like the "hip" style that year, it's hard to find anything you like.

Guest's picture

In these parts, all the K-marts I've seen are in questionable parts of town (as in I wouldn't drive through there with my doors unlocked, much less get out of the car). Any shopping center where a WalMart goes in is also likely to be in a downwardly mobile neighborhood, but at least the one near us doesn't feel unsafe. I won't shop in WalMart, but I do shop at the Costco and the Target that are in the same aging shopping center.

I used to go into K-mart with a friend who liked to shop there. Never could see the appeal: Merchandise was a mess, with clothing strewn on the floor and never picked up by employees, displays unappealing and jumbled, bathrooms filthy, and employees only grudgingly polite (if that). While I often bought inexpensive clothing for the kid, knowing he would outgrow it about the time it wore out, I expect my own clothes to last at least a year and preferably much longer. For that reason I'd rather own fewer things of higher quality than lots of stuff of K-mart quality.

Guest's picture

...will I shop somewhere where they intentionally rip you off, the person in charge yells at their people and no one within the company wants to handle customer issues.

I need to return something to WM - its here ya go with a smile. Kmart - ha!

I need to ask someone to find something that was advertised at Target but I can't find - sure, no problem. Kmart - ha!

WM and Target I've never once been charged the wrong price. Kmart - happened 3 times in 6 trips.

WM and Target - plain speaking, non-fraud ads. Kmart - ha! Never once have I gone in for an advertised special and gotten the deal expected.

I don't have a Target nearby but stop when I'm near one. My Kmart is 2 miles from home and WM is 9. I go to WM if I can't get something at a local store.

There is a reason there is never a parking problem at Kmart - people are getting smart.

Guest's picture

The only good thing I've found at K-Mart is that it's usually deserted. The first line of this post is absolutely true. They have a worse selection than Wal-Mart or Target and are more expensive than both, even before the bankruptcy. Maybe they have some good deals, but I'd rather save time and gas money by going to one place where overall the prices are cheaper and the selection better.

Guest's picture

I second Funny about Money. Walmarts are in the worst parts of town or pretty far out of town, Kmarts are very slightly better and Targets are generally in the 'a little downhill, but not that bad' kind of neighborhoods. Ergo, Target is preferred.

I live in a high crime city as it is. I don't go around asking to get shot by shopping in bad neighborhoods just to get a good deal. My life is worth more than that.

Guest's picture

I tend to go shopping at Kmart for boses of tea. I get substantial savings with their clearance prices of 50 cents to $2 per box (20 tea bags) of tea that is usually priced regularly at over $3/box. Ditto for instant coffee on sale and with coupon.

Guest's picture

For some reason I decided I strongly desired a futon mattress like I had when I was younger. My dad and I drove all around Northern Virginia looking for one, but the only place we could find one was KMart. It was kind of funny because my younger siblings were with us and, as we entered the store, my dad told everyone to stay really close to him.. I guess he thought we could potentially get jumped.

Guest's picture

I always have found more than walmart K-mart has a better selection of maternity clothes at reasonable prices,They always last me through a pregnancy and I ahve had no problems that I ahven't had with more expensive brands.
Cereals kmart is always having good deals on cereal and if your family loves it as much as mine. You can't afford not to stock up when your there.
I also get great deals on end of season kids clothes. The kind that I don't cxare if my sone rolls in the mud with usually for 2-3 dollars I can get shorts and shirts. Along with the fact that will clearence there large ticket baby items more frequently then there competitors. Its love/hate but sometimes its love.
Also I agree about the kitchen tools and dishes martha stewart has a great line thats durable.