OPINION

The day Kmart devoured Target. Boom. Boom. Boom.

Many Target stores are closing. Picture: Shutterstock
Many Target stores are closing. Picture: Shutterstock

So, Target has finally fallen at the feet of Kmart. What took it so long?

Kmart is a cult, a phenomenon. It has its own Facebook groups on which members slavishly compare the arrangement of their Anko-brand-filled homes. The mustard throw under the framed print of native flora, next to the macrame shelf. And then there's the whole other world of the hacked Kmart cubby houses. Which are then shared on Instagram. Jesus wept.

Target, by comparison, is a solid, middle-of-the-range, arguably better-quality store that just couldn't keep up with the cheap, quick fix of Kmart. Or so it seems.

Target never seemed to generate the same devotion as Kmart.

Target never seemed to generate the same devotion as Kmart.

Yet the news that, across Australia, 75 Target stores will close and another 92 Target stores will be converted to Kmarts has not exactly been met with dancing in the streets by Kmart devotees.

The Facebook group Kmart Mums broke the development with a "breaking news" link from Channel Seven and garnered some inevitable responses such as "not even mad", "yah" and "woooohoooo".

One member asked: "Why is this breaking news?"

Answered another: "Because Kmart is life." Indeed.

A Kmart print. Every home should have one. And probably does.

A Kmart print. Every home should have one. And probably does.

But there was just as much unhappiness at the near-demise of Target, with many people saying its products are better quality, particularly its clothes. You can buy a nice work outfit at Target. Not so much at Kmart. (Remember that? When we actually dressed up to go to work? And, then, we, like, went to work?)

Target clothes still feel like clothes, like some skerrick of workmanship has gone into them, unlike the paper-thin quality of the Kmart offerings, that just felt see-through; the in-built obsolescence obvious even before you get out of the store.

You can find good-quality work clothes at Target, like these on its Facebook page. Not so much Kmart. Picture: Facebook

You can find good-quality work clothes at Target, like these on its Facebook page. Not so much Kmart. Picture: Facebook

"Kmart stuff is cheaply made & crap. I do a mixture of Target & designer clothes. So devastated:( " wrote one Kmart Mums member.

"There's so much I wouldn't bother buying from Kmart because it will be broken in weeks but Target quality is great!! Love Target!" another wrote.

You really don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

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There's little doubt Kmart has, in the past few years, struck gold (rose gold?) with its mix of low prices and pleasing design. Its devotion shows up as memes. Mums joke about going to Kmart for one thing and coming out with a trolley-load. There isn't the same fanaticism about Target. Maybe it should have introduced more sloths and llamas to its range.

Because, had it been the other way around - had Target been taking over and Kmarts been closing down - there would be rioting in the streets, the pavements pounding with shoes that feel like you're wearing two bits of cardboard glued together.

Kmart is just a different beast.

Earlier in the coronavirus pandemic, when - the horror - some Kmart stores temporarily closed, its online business went nuts. People couldn't do without it. So much so, shoppers had to queue to get online, such was the demand. Queue. Online. To shop online. Madness. But, I still did it.

There is something solid about Target. It is not too fancy, dependable.

The Target Country stores were, particularly, a rare gem. Sprawling, usually in the main street of a rural town, shelves and hanging space jampacked with product. Little instore styling. Nothing Instagrammable whatsoever. But generally good quality. Target Country was the successor to Fossey's in my home town, but it's already gone too. They were always worth a look for something that you couldn't find in the city stores.

So what happens now? Kmart marches on. Boom. Boom. Boom. Will we all have the same-looking homes? The peach palette seems to be on the rise. Kill. Me. Now. Wear the same things? Give our kids the same toys?

Yet, for all this confected outrage, I still shop more at Kmart than Target. Even though I know the quality is lower. It isn't just that Kmart is cheaper. I just feel a frisson of excitement entering a Kmart that I don't feel at Target. So. Sad.

I have already written (ranted?) about my love/hate relationship with Kmart. The pull of the quick retail fix, finding the just-so item that makes you feel happy, until you don't like it anymore and it goes to Vinnies or, worse still, to landfill. And then we go back to the shops again. To buy more.

A llama potplant holder from Kmart. It's either a llama or a sloth at Kmart.

A llama potplant holder from Kmart. It's either a llama or a sloth at Kmart.

As I wrote two years ago: "With every Kmart bargain, you know someone is missing out. Someone, somewhere can't be being paid appropriately when the chain can sell a T-shirt for $2.50; a pedestal fan for $12. And that the true craftsman - the one who actually makes [stuff] and makes [it] to last - is not getting a customer. The bespoke, the artisan is left behind.

"I know Kmart is not the sole culprit. I know it is not the only driver of excess consumption. Ultimately, my buying habits are entirely down to me. It's my choice where I spend my money."

Back then, I wondered: "So will I keep shopping in Kmart? Yes. I still love it. Will I try to do less of it in 2018? I hope so." It's 2020. Nothing much has changed. Sigh. I think I need to go and buy a peach-coloured sloth with rose-gold accents from Kmart to cheer me up.

This story The day Kmart devoured Target. Boom. Boom. Boom. first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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