K-Mart's New Martha

As a part of its makeover to become more street-wise and hip, Kmart -- yeah, you heard right, that's Kmart -- is re-creating itself to appeal to a new urban generation. (I know, it's odd for me to see "hip" and "Kmart" in the same sentence too). In part, this strategy includes co-branding celeb-endorsed products -- including those diverse crews from The WB! Network, E! News Live, and Mexican crossover pop star, Thalia Sodi. As the article suggests, this spells possible doom for Martha Stewart's Westport brand -- the domestic maven's brand of household wares sold exclusively at the discount retailer.

    Thalia, a sexy songbird and wife of music impresario Tommy Mottola, is also a centerpiece of the company's plans to reach new consumers. The Mexican singer appeals to the Hispanic and metropolitan markets that are increasingly important in Kmart's customer base.

    She's still a tiny player when compared to Stewart's selling power, but Thalia's products have begun to encroach on the domestic diva's housewares turf.

    The Thalia Sodi Collection not only includes apparel and perfume, it reaches to the home goods isle.

    In the first 39 weeks after its 2003 introduction, Thalia's collection brought in $17 million in sales, according to Kmart documents. This year, the Thalia merchandise is on track to bring in about $100 million in revenue.

    That's a fraction of Stewart's estimated $1.5 billion in sales from established consumers who are loyal to her rugs, sheets and towels. But Thalia's products are just beginning to spread across Kmart's stores.

    "We initially tested the line in about 300 stores," a Kmart spokesman said. "It's been so successful we're expanding it to all our stores."

    Meanwhile, the domestic diva's (Stewart's) staying power remains uncertain as she heads to prison to begin a five-month sentence for lying to investigators about selling ImClone stock.

But as Kmart launches the Thalia Sodi collection en masse, here's some news that should give them pause: Thalia's own magazine -- launched just this past April -- is already folding after three months in circulation. Sheesh, I could've saved Thalia's handlers a lot of money if they had first consulted with me. I mean, how are you going to convince a domestic female audience that Thalia is the next Martha Stewart? Does this look like the kind of woman who sits at home wearing her apron, arranging potpourri and baking brownies?

Of course not. She looks like she wants to party. Hence, her appeal rests with 18-34 year old men. It's red blooded American males, I tell ya. You gotta market Thalia to men! Beer, hot rods, fast food, Steven Seagal's next comeback film, deoderant -- she'd be an instant hit.

I know Mr. Mottola don't like that, but trust me on this one.

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