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Why Can 't Kmart Be Successful While Target and Walmart Thrive?

What drives some companies to succeed while others languish? Successful companies develop a system of a few truly unique capabilities that help them create differentiated value for their chosen customers.

Retailers provide many case studies in capabilities-driven success, one of the most compelling of which is the big discounter triad of Walmart, Target and Kmart. And in this fourth-quarter retail season, we thought it would be helpful to take a closer look at what really distinguishes these competitors because they provide valuable insight into the key components of a winning corporate strategy.

We believe that all successful companies — Walmart and Target included —
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Walk through a Kmart store and you 'll discover designers like Jaclyn Smith in the low-budget ambience of a warehouse. They carry Kenmore appliances, which may require high-touch sales assistance that many Sears customers expect and many Kmart stores lack. In short, Kmart has not established an identifiable way to play that reflects both customers ' needs and its own capabilities. Harry Cunningham, the founder of Kmart, allegedly admitted that Sam Walton (the founder of Walmart) "not only copied our concepts, he strengthened them."

The lack of a clear concept about how to reach the market, in our view, is the single most important factor in explaining why Kmart 's fortunes have fallen so far, compared to its two rivals. Without a clear way to play, and capabilities to support it, a company cannot achieve the coherence it needs to truly excel at what it does, and thus outpace competitors.

Kmart (sometimes stylized as K-Mart), is an American chain of discount stores headquartered in the United States. The chain purchased Sears in 2005, forming a new corporation under the name Sears Holdings Corporation. The company was founded in 1962 and is the third largest discount store chain in the world, behind Walmart and Target, with stores in the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam (which houses the world 's largest Kmart).[2] As of January 29, 2011, Kmart
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