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What Kmart doesn't want you to know: How virtually ALL of the cult retail store's must-have products - from air fryers and pie makers to throw rugs and eucalyptus fragrance diffusers - are made in China

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 20/06/2020 Nic White For Daily Mail Australia

Kmart has attracted legions of fans with its on-trend products and low prices for everything from marble tables to heated rugs and $69 air fryers.

Entire social media groups are dedicated to mums revamping their homes with brand new furnishings or super-organised Kmart inspired kitchens.

The chain's more-for-less popularity saw its sales jump 7.6 per cent in the second half of last year, even as its sister company Target hit dire straits.

But there's one reason why Kmart is able to sell a whole coffee machine for $89 - all the products its fans rave about are made in China.

a store filled with lots of luggage: So reliant on cheap Chinese labour is Kmart that entire aisles across its stores are empty until at least July after coronavirus ripped through Asia © Provided by Daily Mail So reliant on cheap Chinese labour is Kmart that entire aisles across its stores are empty until at least July after coronavirus ripped through Asia Shelves are completely bare in many parts of its stores like this one in Parramatta in western Sydney © Provided by Daily Mail Shelves are completely bare in many parts of its stores like this one in Parramatta in western Sydney

So reliant on cheap Chinese labour is Kmart that entire aisles across its stores are empty until at least July after coronavirus ripped through Asia.

Queensland University of Technology consumer expert and researcher Gary Mortimer said the stores were reliant on cheap overseas manufacturing.

'Australian discount department stores are heavily reliant on overseas production, whether that comes out of India, China, Pakistan or Bangladesh,' he told Daily Mail Australia.

Australian Workers Union national secretary Daniel Walton said it shouldn't be the country's 'destiny' to buy everything from China.

'We are in this position today because of deliberate choices made by our governments. It's certainly possible to recalibrate and we should,' he said.

'Australians can and should be making more things – preferably things that we want to hang onto instead of ending up in landfill.' 

Kmart said it worked with suppliers across the globe, 'to develop and source the best quality, style and priced products that our customers love'. 

Air fryers and pie makers

Kmart's incredibly popular line of air fryers, costing between $49 for a 1.5L version and $129 for the 3-in-1 version, are used to cook just about anything.

Customers were up in arms when they sold out around the country earlier this month, with many models still gone from shelves today.

Kmart's incredibly popular line of air fryers, costing between $49 for a 1.5L version , are used to cook just about anything

Kmart's incredibly popular line of air fryers, costing between $49 for a 1.5L version , are used to cook just about anything
© Provided by Daily Mail

The reason for the dire shortage is the entire range is made in China, as clearly labelled on the side of the boxes they come in.

The same is true for Kmart's sandwich makers, microwaves, ovens, electric frying pans, and $29 double hot plate.

Kmart's legendary $29 pie maker is another smashing success, used to make an astonishing variety of lunch box treats - and even barbeque sausages.

For the same price you can scoop up a sausage roll maker that ex-MasterChef host Matt Preston has used to make apple pies and mac-n-cheese fingers.

'I lashed out on a sausage roll maker... I call it $29 well spent,' he captioned a photo of it being put to use.

'I couldn't be prouder... making apple pies in the sausage roll maker with puff was pretty good but when my daughter suggested using up the filo in the freezer with the last of the filling, we were on to a winner!'

Just a day earlier, Preston used his pie maker to whip up spanakopita, a Greek spinach and feta cheese pie.

Both of these appliances are made in China and now barely available in store thanks to their popularity and supply problems thanks to coronavirus.

Kmart's legendary $29 pie maker is another smashing success, used to make an astonishing variety of lunch box treats

Kmart's legendary $29 pie maker is another smashing success, used to make an astonishing variety of lunch box treats
© Provided by Daily Mail

Bargain blenders

On shelves opposite are a dazzling array of blenders and food processors for as little as $50 - all of which are made in China.

One particularly popular model, a $49 digital 1.5L blender, scored high marks from a Choice test that gave it a better grade than a $2,200 competitor.

'Look, it's no Vitamix in the status department, but this $49 blender held its own in the kitchen, receiving a more-than-respectable 90 per cent performance score,' the consumer watchdog said.

Consumer review website Canstar Blue also weighed in on the digital blender.

'The digital blender packs a lot in for the price, and has features that other brands have on their blenders for much more money,' the experts said.

Choice included the blender in a roundup of bargain Kmart products that provide great value for money.

A Kmart $49 digital 1.5L blender, scored high marks from a Choice test that gave it a better grade than a $2,200 competitor

A Kmart $49 digital 1.5L blender, scored high marks from a Choice test that gave it a better grade than a $2,200 competitor
© Provided by Daily Mail

$89 Coffee maker better than $949 one

They included an $89 espresso coffee machine that was recommended for any family that wanted a tasty on a budget.

'In our tests, it outperformed a $949 coffee machine on flavour and pumped out consistently hot coffees. And it'll pretty up your kitchen bench, too: it looks the business,' Choice declared.

A $49 carry-on suitcase measuring 45.5cm was rated better than a $500 competitor, and a $55 electric blanket also received a 'red hot' rating.

The review also listed Kmart's range of vacuum cleaners, costing $50 to $100, which were given scathing reviews but are nonetheless widely sold.

All these outrageously popular, and in many cases high-performing, products are made in China, as seen on their packaging.

a clock on a table: Kmart has a $89 espresso coffee machine that outperformed a $949 coffee machine in a review by Choice - it's made in China © Provided by Daily Mail Kmart has a $89 espresso coffee machine that outperformed a $949 coffee machine in a review by Choice - it's made in China a screenshot of a cell phone: The review also listed Kmart's range of vacuum cleaners, costing $50 to $100 and made in China, which were given scathing reviews but are nonetheless widely sold © Provided by Daily Mail The review also listed Kmart's range of vacuum cleaners, costing $50 to $100 and made in China, which were given scathing reviews but are nonetheless widely sold

Kit out kitchens for $13

Elsewhere in the kitchen, Choice also raved about Kmart's 24cm frying pans that now cost just $13 - alongside similarly cheap other sizes.

The group found it delivered better performance, ease of use, and durability than other popular brands costing hundreds of dollars.

'It's a lightweight, well-balanced pan that's easy to clean,' kitchen expert Chantelle Dart said. 

'Even though it's only $16, it's comparable with other brands that are significantly more expensive.' 

The pan survived 10,000 scrubs with a scourer and the only downside was its thin base making it get too hot when used for long periods. 

All Kmart's kitchen pots and pans are made in China.

Another recent sensation was a $35 heated throw rug, far cheaper than the $150 versions sold elsewhere.

Customers said the rug was so good it saved them $500 on heating costs, and was widely sold out at the beginning of winter.

Like all of Kmart's electric blankets, the heated throw rug is made in China.

Choice also raved about Kmart's 24cm frying pans that now cost just $13 - alongside similarly cheap other sizes

Choice also raved about Kmart's 24cm frying pans that now cost just $13 - alongside similarly cheap other sizes
© Provided by Daily Mail

Hack Queen's made in China decor

Social media is littered with lists of must-have Kmart products and stories of elaborate home redecoration done for next to nothing - all with stuff made in China.

'Kmart hack queen' Samantha this month shared her must-have Kmart buys of 2020 - including a marble coffee table and a $4 glass canister.

Samantha said her favourite product at the moment is the $49 rattan floor lamp.

'I love this lamp because it's so versatile. You can place it in the bedroom or living space - it suits a contemporary and natural scheme,' she told Daily Mail Australia.

Her other top picks include the marble range - $49 coffee table and $35 side table.

'Marble tables are great, solid pieces of furniture with heavy marble. I actually don't understand how something is made with such good quality but is still well priced,' she said.

Samantha said she's loving her 'stylish' set of two black round coffee tables, which costs $39 for the larger size and $29 for the smaller version.

Her list of 10 must-have items she used in a spectacular home redecoration are all made in China, which is how she was able to pull it off for such a low price.

'Hack queen' must-have Kmart buys

1. Rattan floor lamp - $49

2. Faux flowers - $3 to $8

3. Large tall glass vase - $12

4. Furniture pieces - including the $35 half moon table and the $39 entertainment unit

5. Hanging plant in pot - $9

6. Hammered Triple Wick Fragrant Candle - $15

7. Mable table - $35

8. Set of two round oak table - $49

9. Black coffee table - large $39, and small $29

10. Glass canister - large $5.50, small $4 and a set of two mini $4

a close up of a computer: 'Kmart hack queen' Samantha recommended this $35 Kmart side table. It's made in China

'Kmart hack queen' Samantha recommended this $35 Kmart side table. It's made in China
© Provided by Daily Mail

Homes transformed for next to nothing

Similarly, Erana Rosa, 39, transformed the space under her stairs into a cubby house for her daughter for just $250.

Her design included a toy kitchen for $89, beanbag for $43, and dinosaur lights for $8 from Kmart - all of which are made in China.

'I think she was in shock when she first opened the door and wasn't sure what to say or do but she loved the dinosaur lights and has been cooking up a storm in the kitchen,' she said of the Kmart products.

Another woman shared her dressing room makeover by her fiancé, complete with a Hollywood mirror, marble worktop and a chandelier.

The bride-to-be shared images of the luxury space to Facebook which houses her extensive Louboutin shoe collection, makeup, bags and jewellery.

a wooden bed sitting in a room: ‘The idea of what it would look like was a combination of searching ideas online and our own creativity,’ Erana said

‘The idea of what it would look like was a combination of searching ideas online and our own creativity,’ Erana said
© Provided by Daily Mail

Kmart provided a grey velvet bench ($45) as a stoop to hold her candles, cosmetics holders, vases and fake flowers, along with the $8 curtain string lights behind the makeup station - all made in China.

Other popular Kmart products that are made in China include a $99 air purifier that took off during the summer's bushfires, a $49 three-piece luggage set, and a set of knives with a block for just $7.

Camping and recreation gear and kids toys are also overwhelmingly Chinese made including the store's entire fishing rod and tent ranges.

Most of the plastic toys are sourced from China, though Hot Wheels cars are made in Thailand and Lego is still made in Denmark where it was invented.

Even products you would expect to be made in Australia are from China, like a eucalyptus mint fragrance diffuser. 

a close up of a box: Even products you would expect to be made in Australia are from China, like a eucalyptus mint fragrance diffuser

Even products you would expect to be made in Australia are from China, like a eucalyptus mint fragrance diffuser
© Provided by Daily Mail

How Kmart keeps prices low - buying from China

Kmart said it was committed to preserving and nurture its relationships with suppliers and partners.

'This includes working alongside these suppliers and partners that operate across the globe, to develop and source the best quality, style and priced products that our customers love,' it said.

'During these unique times, together we have been able to navigate and move through this period with positive outcomes that have allowed us to continue to pass on the best products at the best price to customers.'

Kmart claimed the empty shelves were the result of it scaling back orders under the incorrect assumption that Australians would buy less, not that its supply was interrupted.

'During the early stages of Covid-19 and the uncertainty of the coming months, we reduced the number of product orders,' it said.

'The team have worked hard to bring product forward and encourage customers to be patient as stock levels will start to come back in the next few weeks and all product availabilities to normalise by July 2020.'

This set of knives, complete with a storage block, costs just $7 - it is made in China

This set of knives, complete with a storage block, costs just $7 - it is made in China
© Provided by Daily Mail

Retail director John Gualtieri also blamed changes to manufacturing overseas for the slow return of products to the retailers shelves. 

'Some of the countries where we manufacture our physical products were also put into lockdown at this time, putting production of some of our goods on hold for a period of time,' he said.  

Commsec chief economist Craig James told 9 News the shortage is a byproduct of Australia's dependency on foreign imports.

'Australia is one of the most dependent countries in the world on China. Something like 38 per cent of exports go to China and something like a third of our imports come from China,' he said.

The supply chain fell into disarray as workers went into lockdown, worsened by the run on goods with Australian restaurants closed during the pandemic. 

a screenshot of a cell phone: Kmart Australia says it expects stock levels to 'normalise' by the end of July © Provided by Daily Mail Kmart Australia says it expects stock levels to 'normalise' by the end of July

A YouGov poll found about 80 per cent of Australians thought Australian materials should be used for infrastructure projects - even if they cost more.

'Let's break the addiction to cheap Chinese imported product. It's a stupid false economy. Australian-made building materials are not only top quality, they're globally competitive,' Mr Walton said.

'COVID-19 has shown that when push comes to shove, we need to be able to produce the things we need, when we need them.' 

This could be extended to consumer products available at Kmart as well. 

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