Focus 2019: What Makes Kearney Unique?

Change your look with microblading WHATMAKES KEARNEY UNIQUE? U 2019 KEARNEY HUB • SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2019 By TIFFANY STOIBER Digital Editor KEARNEY —When thinking of unique in the Kearney community, it’s easy to point out landmarks like Yanney Tower or The Bricks. But a longtime signature of Kearney is much smaller. In fact, it fits in your wallet. K Cards, or to long- time Kearneyites, “Cat Cards,” have been around for decades as a dual school activity fundraiser and a reusable coupon card. This fall, the foldable cards are coming up on their 25th anniversary. According to Lisa Parrish, Kearney Public Schools Foundation director, the cards were first created in 1994, as the solution of a single fundraiser that could be used for multiple school groups. “I think the K Card has generated a tremen- dous amount of activi- ty dollars for our stu- dents,” Parrish said. “It’s helped a lot of band students go on trips. Any of the student groups, when they have different compe- titions or activi- ties that they’re pursuing, this is really a strong base of support for them, and it’s a nice tie to the business community. It’s a great partner- ship, really.” While Kearney High School students sell the majority of the cards, the foundation shares about 500 cards with Kearney Catholic High School, so its stu- dents can sell them, as well. Each card sells for $5. Groups that sell the cards keep 100 percent of the profits, thanks to how the foundation has the system set up. Businesses pay to advertise on the cards, and can pay a little more to be featured on the front or back of the card. The foundation then uses the extra money to fund the printing. Any leftover money remains in the foundation’s K Cards mark 25 years supporting youths Tiffany Stoiber, Kearney Hub EVERY YEAR, the color and design of the K Card changes slightly so that businesses easily can see whether the card is current or not. Students start selling the cards in September and the cards are valid from Oct. 1 of that year until Oct. 1 of the next year. Adapting to change By JAN THOMPSON Special to the Hub KEARNEY — Jim Kolbo points to The Buckle’s mobile app icon on his phone screen. A bright “1” is superimposed over the company’s logo. “It is so cool,” he says. “I just got a notification that new freight hit the mall store.” Kolbo, district manager for 25 Buckle locations, is standing between two men’s shirt dis- plays at the company’s Hilltop Mall store in Kearney. But he’s demonstrating technology that lets customers shop any Buckle store, from anywhere. Kolbo opens the app, scrolls through and “loves” some of the newly arrived jeans by clicking on a heart icon. With another few clicks, he could buy those jeans from The Buckle’s website. But then again, they may not be exactly what he wants. “I don’t want to commit, but I want to try that on,” he says, clicking a price tag icon at the bottom of the screen. Now he’s reserved those jeans, in his size, in his favorite denim shade and texture at his local store. At the sales desk a few yards away, an iPad makes a small “ding.” Almost before Kolbo can cancel the reservation, an employee pulls those jeans from a shelf. They would have been put in a special reservation area for about 24 hours, waiting for Kolbo to come in and try them on. If he needed more time or had special requests — maybe he wanted advice on what shirt to pair with those jeans — he could have added that note to his reservation as well. “Some people like online, but they also want to try it on, touch it, feel it and get advice,” Kolbo said. The mobile app offers both, letting customers shop the store By JAN THOMPSON Special to the Hub KEARNEY — If you walked into Hilltop Mall in December, Lindsie Breazeale hopes it didn’t just feel like Christmas inside. She wanted you to see, hear, taste and smell Christmas at the mall. “We did everything as an experience, tried to touch all five of your senses,” said Breazeale, the mall’s marketing director. “The hardest one was taste.” Creating new and unique experienc- es is something malls everywhere are focused on today, she said, and Hilltop Mall is no exception. It’s one way malls and their tenants have responded to cus- tomers’ changing shopping habits. Nationally, headlines have blamed factors such as the rise of e-com- merce for a decline in shopping malls with smaller Class C malls such as Kearney’s often the hardest hit. But Breazeale and Scott Ehmke, property manager, expressed confidence in Hill- top’s future. “We’re actually still doing great,” Ehmke said. “You see a constant flow of steady traffic in the mall.” Ehmke declined to give specific sales figures, but said sales as a whole are “trending up.” Though the Herberger’s department store closed in 2018, Ehmke said Hilltop added three new tenants last year, keeping them steady at around 40. The percentage of filled space, he said, is an outdated measurement tool for today’s shopping malls. “(Square footage) is not something that needs to be measured anymore because it’s all based off of that experi- ence that property or that management staff is bringing to the property, for the customers to continue coming. If you keep the experience high ... that’s going to continue to drive sales for our tenants.” “Space doesn’t mean you’re suc- cessful; stores just used to be larger,” Breazeale added. Rather than focusing on being large, today’s malls are focusing on the shop- ping experience, Ehmke said. Breazeale added that Hilltop’s nursing room, which it’s had for almost two years, is one way Kearney’s mall has already done that. Formerly located by Herberger’s, the nursing area recently was moved next to the restrooms. The curtained area has comfortable chairs, a changing table, toys, and is stocked with wipes and other supplies by the Kearney Community Breastfeeding Initiative. “It just gives you a private, comfort- able place to feed,” Breazeale said, which can make the shopping experi- ence more pleasant for mothers. Some American malls are attracting customers, and replacing the anchor store concept by adding non-retail attractions such as virtual reality stations, Hilltop staff focuses on shopping experience THE KEARNEY Public Schools Foundation had 8,000 cards printed for 2018. K CARD, PAGE 2 ISABELLA LINDHOLM at The Buckle’s Hilltop Mall store pulls clothes personalized to an individual customer’s age, body and style. Many customers now expect a more personalized shopping experience. Lisa Parrish Hilltop Mall embraces technology to stay on top of trends KRISTINE SILVERS , assistant manager at The Buckle, demonstrates the company’s mobile app that lets custom- ers know when new looks have arrived. The app also allows customers to buy online, ship their purchases to the store or reserve items they can later try on in the store. BLING OPENED at the Hilltop Mall in Kearney in October. The clothing store tries to deliver what manager Sarah Purinton calls “The Bling Ex- perience” by getting to know their customers and asking about their shopping needs. RIDDLE’S JEWELERS finished remodeling its Hilltop Mall store in Kearney in October. The store’s new look includes a lounge where customers can meet with jewelers Erika Pritchard, Kearney Hub EXPERIENCE, PAGE 2 CHANGE, PAGE 2