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Kmart brand is sneaking into every Aussie household but there's a catch in global takeover

Anko started just a few years ago but is now bought by 88 per cent of Aussie households each year.

Kmart's Anko is the biggest brand in Australia right now. It’s the driving force behind the most successful retailer in the country and it is exploding onto the global stage.

It's almost impossible to overstate how successful Anko has been. It started just a few years ago and - while not all products are crowd favourites - the brand is now bought by 88 per cent of Aussie households each year.

So, how has this rule-breaking brand helped Kmart defy the odds and thrive while other Aussie department store chains are struggling?

Kmart background with composite image of man wearing Anko t-shirt, and Anko toy clock, Anko shoes, Anko toaster
Kmart's Anko brand is on just about everything, from clothing to toys and appliances. (Getty/Kmart)

One brand to rule them all

Kmart first claimed the Anko brand name back in 2017 and registered Anko Global just a few months ago. (Anko seems to be a common name in Japan and, while it sounds nice in English, it doesn’t mean much, which is perfect.)

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Anko breaks all the rules of branding. It is on everything. Normally you’d use a separate brand for vacuum cleaners and coffee tables and toys and women’s clothing. But the brains behind Anko said, “Nope, stick it on 85 per cent of the products we sell”. One brand to rule them all.

Why? Kmart boss Ian Bailey says it’s about simplification. But more than that, a single brand “enables accelerated awareness of the brand and its products, and provides coordination across categories”.

Not everything Anko is good

CHOICE Australia has combed through the offerings and reports that, sorry, not all Anko stuff is good.

The vacuum cleaners? Rubbish, CHOICE said. “All of the Anko vacuums we recently tested were among the lowest scoring overall.”

The toasters? “Lacklustre”.

But those must be the exceptions because we are buying a lot of Anko stuff. A LOT.

We all know about Anko by now. It even got a shout-out on prestige TV - the show Deadloch, set in Tasmania, makes a cute Anko reference in one of the later episodes.

The common aspect between all Anko items is “value”. This is the polite way of saying they are as cheap as chips, but not shit. You can get t-shirts with the Anko tag for as little as $4.

Anko is also a lifeline being thrown to struggling brand Target. Wesfarmers owns Kmart and Target. While the former is booming, the latter is struggling. A lot of Target stores have been rebranded as Kmart. That helped for a while but the remaining Target stores were still stumbling along. So they’ve cleared out the shelves and restocked them with Anko goods. My bet? That will be enough to re-energise Target. Because Australians have proven they love it.

Anko well-placed for global foray

However, if you want to work for Anko - get in on the ground floor - there’s one catch: many of the advertised jobs are in India. The Anko GCC (GCC stands for general capabilities centre) is in Bangalore in the heart of southern India.

“The time zone difference with Australia means you will get to prioritise your evenings for yourself and your family,” the ANKO GCC careers website says.

The company has 13 jobs available right now - 12 in India and one in Dongguan City, China. (The person who gets the job in Dongguan needs to be an expert on wooden toys – cheap Chinese plastic toys are being replaced by cheap Chinese wooden toys, apparently!)

There are still a lot of jobs in Kmart’s head office in the outer-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, but they aren’t advertised under the Anko brand.

Also by Jason Murphy:

It really does seem like Kmart is trying to launch Anko into the global market, and maybe basing so many staff in India is the smart way to keep costs down as it does so.

“Due to Anko’s local success at Kmart Australia and New Zealand it has expanded to both domestic and international markets via several strategic retail partnerships in key markets around the world,” the company says. “Anko products are currently sold in Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa and Singapore.”

Those wooden toys they are making in China? They are good enough to catch the eye of the big kids in the toy department. Toy giant Mattel is now working alongside Anko to make wooden toys. Mattel is doing everything right recently - especially the Barbie movie. I’m not saying there will be an Anko movie anytime soon but if the brand continues on its current trajectory, well…

Australia should be proud

We’ve long been an importer of brands. Aldi can launch on our shores but we can’t seem to come up with anything that works overseas. Our exports are mostly undifferentiated iron ore and agricultural products. Penfolds wine and Bondi Rescue are perhaps the only big success stories that we sell abroad.

But Anko could change that. Even if it is less popular overseas than it is here, there’s room for Anko to be very popular because 20 per cent of all clothes sold in Australia are Anko. (So the company claims.)

Anko’s success has transformed Kmart into a juggernaut with booming sales and profitability even though the category it is in – department stores – is crashing down around it. Big W and Target, Myer and David Jones, they are all train wrecks. But Anko has permitted Kmart to blossom.

Anko has Australia’s leading market share in menswear, womenswear and home products, along with toys and children's wear. And now, Wesfarmers has identified that it is onto a winner and is sending it out to the world.

The people applying for those jobs in India right now could be getting in on the ground floor of an absolute boom company.

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