Kmart hack solves annoying problem
FOR weeks now, I've tried - and failed - to get my hands on one of the hottest items in the country.
My prize? Kmart's coveted, $8 fringe cushion - an item so popular it is flying off shelves right across Australia.
It's so in-demand it's also been next to impossible to order online, even with the deterrent of a $10-$16 delivery fee.
But while the fringe cushion might be Kmart's current flavour of the month, it's just the latest in a string of sellout items the discount department store chain has struggled to keep in stock.
Last year, it was the $35 Scandi Shoe Rack shoppers couldn't get enough of, while earlier this year an $8 knot cushion and a $29 marble table were all the rage.
But with a significant amount of frustrated shoppers failing to nab big-ticket items, could Kmart be at risk of becoming a victim of its own success?
According to Queensland University of Technology retail expert Dr Gary Mortimer, that's unlikely.
"What Kmart is doing is leveraging FOMO, or fear of missing out, and it's not uncommon - we often see Aldi doing exactly the same thing with their twice-weekly specials, where people line up out the front, rush in and sometimes miss out," he said.
"It does create that excitement of being able to get hold of a great bargain that's fashionable and on trend.
"Another factor that's important to remember is that if you have an abundant, never-ending supply of a particular product, that's not very exclusive - you want to maintain a bit of exclusivity in the product, and in particular in homewares, home decor and furnishing, you want to make sure not everyone has the same cushion or shoe rack or kitchenware."
Dr Mortimer said it wasn't "unreasonable" for unlucky customers like me to be annoyed when they don't manage to bag a particular item - but that it was unlikely the chain was purposely going out of its way to understock highly popular products.
And he said shoppers' frustration was also unlikely to damage the store's overall success - even given the ongoing backlash against Kmart's controversial new store layout, with cash registers moved from the entrance into the middle of stores.
"At the moment Kmart can't put a foot wrong; they've got a great designer to run their home decor business, they've got their pricing right and they've very clearly got a strong social media presence," he said.
And it turns out bargain hunters who are after a popular item are in luck - they can always take advantage of Kmart's little-known "raincheck" service.
Working in a similar way to traditional waiting lists, Kmart's raincheck service means staff will put aside an item for you once it is back in stock, and notify you when it's able to be collected.
A Kmart spokeswoman confirmed the raincheck hack to news.com.au.
"At Kmart, we strive to ensure our products are easily accessible for our customers, to support their everyday needs," the spokeswoman said.
"Sometimes when there is particularly strong demand for a product, it may sell out in stores. "When this occurs with advertised products during a promotional period, customers are able to request a raincheck, meaning they will be contacted when more stock becomes available in store, or alternatively, they will be offered a substitute item if no future stock is expected."
Shoppers are also urged to call Kmart's customer service team on 1800 124 125 for help locating products in store.