Kmart customers take stock of Martha Stewart

March 08, 2004|HERB BROCK

For Doris Anderson, it's still a good thing.

On Friday, for Martha Stewart, it was a bad thing. She was convicted on four federal counts involving stock trading. On Saturday, Anderson was at the Kmart in Danville checking out Martha Stewart brand products.

To the Lancaster woman, it doesn't matter if the grand dame of home decor will be decorating a prison cell for the next few years. Anderson vowed she will still be buying her products, as long as they are available, that is.

"I have been buying her bath and kitchen products for years and I will still be buying them, no matter what happens to her legally," said Anderson. "Of course, I hope she will keep making them. It might be hard if she has to go to prison or pays a fine so huge it wrecks her company."


Anderson was one of about two dozen Kmart customers asked Saturday what impact, if any, Stewart's legal problems would have on their shopping habits. A slight majority said they had at least fairly regularly bought Stewart's products, which include kitchen, bath and bedroom items, paints, garden supplies and other home decor and outdoor merchandise, and every one of them said they would remain loyal to Martha Stewart brand products as long as they are produced.

Most of the rest of the Kmart shoppers said they had not bought any Martha Stewart items mainly because, they said, it is too expensive. Whether the Martha Stewart home decor empire crumbles or remains intact won't affect them, they said.

"As long as her conviction doesn't end her product line, I will still keep buying Martha Stewart merchandise," said Jolene McPherson of Garrard County. "Sure, you may pay a little more for comparable items but the prices are still pretty reasonable considering the products are such good quality."

Louise Graves said she will continue to buy Martha Stewart products not just because she likes them but also because she wants to do it as a show of support for Stewart and a sign of protest against those who "did her in."

"For the price, which is not all that high when you consider it's very high quality, you can't find any better sheets, towels, bath mats or anything else that she makes than hers," said Graves.

"Yes, I am going to keep buying her things and I may even buy more than usual because I want her to know that I am one person who thinks they (federal prosecutors and the jury) did her wrong," she said.

"Other big shots in the business world seem to be able to get away with what they do, like most of those Enron executives. Those people practically stole money from their own employees' retirement funds and nothing's happened to most of them. But Martha gets the book thrown at her when what she did was so small by comparison."

Other shoppers indicate they never bought her merchandise

Other Kmart shoppers indicated they won't be affected at all by Stewart's conviction because they never have bought her merchandise in the first place.

"If she goes to prison and can no longer make her products, it won't have any effect on me," said Annette Dean of Casey County. "I never buy her stuff because it is so high."

Kim Patrick of Monticello agreed, adding that she is happy to see Stewart's "big head" get a big ache.

"You can buy home decor items just as good but not nearly as expensive as Martha Stewart merchandise," said Patrick. "She's made a fortune off of people who think her stuff is superior when it really isn't.

"And all that money has made her think she is superior to everybody. I bet she doesn't feel so superior now."

Rebecca Tollefson, a Centre College student from Maryland, said she also won't feel any impact from any possible business ramifications from the Stewart conviction.

"In my age range and as a college student, decorating kitchens and bathrooms is way down on my to-do list. In fact, it's not on there at all," said Tollefson with a laugh.

Meanwhile, Kmart personnel said Saturday they had fielded several questions from customers whose shopping lists often include Martha Stewart products. "They're worried that the conviction will mean an end to the Martha Stewart line of home decor products," said a clerk.

Jacquie Williams also is concerned. She is the manager of the Danville Kmart, and she said today that Martha Stewart products not only are big sellers but also account for a relatively large part of the store's overall inventory and sales.

"All of her products sell fantastic. It's very good quality merchandise that is reasonably priced," said Williams. "In fact, I've had several customers tell me over the years that they don't care at all for Martha Stewart as a person but they love her products."

Williams said she has not received any word from Kmart headquarters about the future of the Martha Stewart line in the discount department store chain, but she hopes the directive that eventually comes down will be an order to keep selling the products.

"When Kmart was struggling not long ago, Martha Stewart stuck with the company and did not pull her products from our stores," she said. "Now that she is having problems, I hope we will stick with her."

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