For the opening of its new Top Ryde City store, Kmart had prepared for a full fanfare of balloons and goodies at 8am.
The only problem was – so had Woolworths.
Around 100-plus shoppers descended on the new Kmart shop for its opening on Thursday morning, but about twice as many lined up outside Woolworths.
The home of the ‘Fresh Food People’, which is normally open at 7am, was offering a giveaway to the first 200 customers through the door from 8am, in celebration of its own store “refresh”.
At Kmart, shoppers started gathering from 7.30am, some on their way to work, others to the school drop-off.
But all were there for one reason: it’s cheap.
“There is no Kmart anywhere else around here, and it’s just cheap, so cheap,” said local Natalie Porter. “You can get anything and everything. When it’s Kmart, there is no budget.”
Mitchell Stubbs, who works at KFC in the centre, said there was a lot of hope riding on Kmart.
“Since Myer left and [one-third] of the centre closed, we are just excited that there is a big shop here and hopefully it drives sales in the centre,” he said.
“Especially being open 8am till 10pm, that is within most trading hours here so we all [have] fingers crossed.”
Shoppers enter the new Kmart at Top Ryde Shopping Centre. Photo: Nick Moir
Many shoppers wandering through Kmart sported Woolworths goodie bags, having first lined up at the supermarket to snag a bag and a $25 voucher.
A spokesperson for Woolworths said the fact the 8am promotion coincided with the opening of Kmart was a “coincidence”.
“There have been improvements made to the store over the last month, as part of the store renewal program; a fresh new look, new bakery and meat offering. It has always been planned.”
Many keen shoppers took advantage of the openings at both Woolworths and Kmart. One family of five arrived early to nab a Woolworths goodie bag each, and head through Kmart for a quick shop, before Dad took the bags home and the kids to school.
The queue outside Woolworths Top Ryde just before 8am. Photo: Olivia Simbul-Teen
Kmart’s crowd surged as mums completed the school drop-off after 9am.
A spokesperson for Kmart said the new layout of the 96th store was centred around three product worlds: home, clothing and kids, while updates included “wider aisles, central manned and self-serve checkouts and store entrances [which are] free of queues.”
They may seem like simple changes, but in Kmart’s case they have been part of the reason the once-flailing business is now one of the most profitable listed department store chains in Australia.
Consumer behaviour analysis used by Kmart since the 2008 appointment of chief executive Guy Russo, found de-cluttering stores and removing dump bins meant the store was no longer defined by discounting cycles, but everyday low prices.
Mr Russo has previously said this was one of the hardest changes for the store.
“When I started, up to 90 per cent of our sales were driven by discounts.”
The hype around Kmart has steadily grown over the past few years, largely driven by shoppers on social media.
Twenty-one-year-old Kayleen Burley tapped into the social buzz last year, when she started the Kmart Lovers Facebook page, “so I could stop filling up my personal Instagram with Kmart,” items she photographed.
The first day she launched the Facebook page, which is not affiliated with Kmart, she gained 20,000 likes. One year later she has 120,000.
“I believe there was always a following for Kmart items, just no one had put everything on one page and let the Kmart community grow,” she said.
“I’m so drawn to the stores because they pretty much sell everything, and it’s always at the low price. I could spend hours there.”
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