From Academic Kids

The current Kmart logo
The current Kmart logo

Kmart is a brand and retailing division of Sears Holdings Corporation.



Sebastian S. Kresge founded the S.S. Kresge Corporation, the predecessor of Kmart, in 1899 in Detroit, Michigan. Kresge's first retail establishment, a five-and-ten-cent store, resembled those operated by Frank Woolworth. The store grew into a chain known as S. S. Kresge. By 1912, the chain operated 85 stores.

By the 1920s, Kresge operated larger stores that offered a wider variety of merchandise and prices—precursors of the modern discount store. The first Kmart department store opened in 1962 in Garden City, Michigan. A total of 18 Kmart stores opened that year.

Kmart became known for its "blue light specials": at surprise moments, a store worker would light up a mobile police light and offer a discount in a part of the store. The phrase "attention Kmart shoppers" also entered into the American pop psyche.

During the 1970s, Kmart put a number of competing retailers out of business. In 1977, S. S. Kresge Corporation changed its name to "Kmart Corporation". In 1987, Kmart Corporation sold its remaining Kresge stores.

The old Kmart logo

By the late 1980s, many of Kmart's stores were badly outdated and in decaying condition, so in 1990, in an effort to change their image, Kmart introduced a new logo (dropping the old-style italic "K" with a turquiose "mart", created in the early 1970s), and gave many stores a very badly needed renovation. However, most stores were not remodeled until the mid-1990s, some of which are not completely renovated today. This then-new logo was replaced in 2005 with the current logo.

In the 1990s, Kmart made a number of missteps. Unlike competitor Wal-Mart, it failed to invest in computer technology to manage its supply chain. Furthermore, Kmart maintained a high dividend, which reduced the amount of money available for improving its stores. Many business analysts also faulted the corporation for failing to create a coherent brand image. It attempted to compete with Wal-Mart on price, at the same time trying to move upscale with lines offered by Martha Stewart, Kathy Ireland, and Jaclyn Smith. Other recognizable brands included Sesame Street and Disney.

Missing image
Exterior of a typical BIG Kmart store

In 2001, in a move to re-introduce the recognizable and historic "blue light special" image, which had 80% familiarity to Americans, Kmart introduced the ill-fated "Blue Light Always" marketing campaign. This campaign attempted to compete directly with Wal-Mart on low prices; the campaign's failure partially lead to Kmart's bankruptcy filing. The original "blue light special" had disappeared in 1991 due to changing consumer habits and misuse by individual stores (according to the company's official explanation). The company then brought back the "blue light special", which involved the manager announcing a promotion in-store every hour, on the hour—said special lasting for 25 minutes. When the announcement of the special took place over the public address system, music would fill the store and all employees would stop their current actions, clap twice and pump their fists in the air, shouting "Blue Light, Blue Light!". This scheme aimed to generate more interest in Kmart from shoppers and the media, but failed because stores did not follow the procedure. No records exist of anyone actually shouting "Blue Light, Blue Light!" It has since ended the "blue light special" again.

The stock scandals involving Martha Stewart (from 2001) severely hurt the corporation's image. In addition, Kmart attempted to compete against Wal-Mart on price (for example, with deep discounts and round the clock opening), which failed because Wal-Mart contrived to meet and beat Kmart's price cuts.

On January 22, 2002, Kmart filed for bankruptcy protection. It shut down more than 300 stores in the United States of America and laid off around 34,000 workers as part of a badly-needed restructuring. On May 6, 2003, Kmart officially emerged from bankruptcy protection as Kmart Holding Corporation and on June 10, 2003 it began trading on the NASDAQ National Market (as "KMRT"). Kmart introduced a new prototype store with a new logo, layout and color scheme (lime green and gray) in 2002 in White Lake, Michigan. The new layout has wider aisles, better selection and better lighting. However, Kmart could not afford a full-scale rollout.

Once a major presence in Canada, Kmart stores there were either closed or sold to Zellers in the late 1990s. Like Target stores, Kmart-branded stores in Australia belong to Coles Myer; Coles Myer also holds the rights to the Kmart brand in New Zealand.


See merger section in Sears Holdings Corporation

List of CEOs

See Also

External links


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