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K Mart

Updated on April 16, 2011

K-Mart in my mind

Almost every state in the United States boasts several K-Mart stores. Before the Internet intruded into retail shopping, bargain-conscious consumers flocked to the stores invented by Sebastian Kresge. Creative marketing techniques such as Blue Light Specials, K Mart Super Centers, and Big KMarts have served to keep the brand fresh throughout a long and storied history.

Detroit, Michigan, was the site of one of Sebastian Kresge's first five-and-dime stores. Everything in the store sold for either 5 cents or 10 cents, but not both. Eager consumers flocked to his stores in search of household items. Finally taking his company public in 1918, Kresge saw his retail empire grow to over 85 stores.

Garden City, Michigan, hosted the first officially-named K-Mart store in 1962. Huge numbers of shoppers from Livonia and Farmington Hills flocked to the location. Instead of visiting Wal-Mart or mail-ordering their everyday needs, they were happy to shop under the big red K.

Jupiter Stores were the low-budget no-frills stores devised early-on by K-Mart management. Keeping the stores profitable proved problematic. Letting go of the brand was accomplished by selling the stores to McCrory Stores in 1987.

Load  up a Cart your local K-Mart
Load up a Cart your local K-Mart | Source

Many K-Mart stores were closed by corporate fiat during an economic downturn in the 1980's. Not all the K-Mart brands struggled, however: The Sports Authority, Waldenbooks, and Builder's Square retailers experienced a modicum of success even as K-Mart stores were closing. Opening new outlets provided opportunities for workers to move within the company and remain employed.

Popular among loyal KMart shoppers is the Blue Light Special. Quietly moved throughout the store on a cart, then illuminated on a tall post, the light can be seen throughout the store as it lights the way to a special unadvertised discount. Running through the store is discouraged, but over-ambitious bargain hunters want to be first in line when the light goes on.

Sponsoring NASCAR drivers has been a pet project of K-Mart executives for quite a few years. Topping fast-moving vehicles with red "K" logos is thought to be an effective marketing tool. Unfortunately, race wins for K-Mart racing have been few and far between. Victory costs the same as defeat, but winning cars earn more TV-time, which usually translates to increased sales.

While Wal-Mart, Sears, Target, and other full-line retailers continue to chip away at the market, K-Mart survives. Xylotomy supplies may be in short supply at the typical KMart, but a wide range of daily needs are readily available. You can't go wrong with a Blue Light Special! Zoom on over to for blue-light online deals that would make Sam Kresge proud..


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    • FCEtier profile image

      Chip 7 years ago from Cold Mountain

      I've been in retail for 35+ years. It would be a shame for K-Mart to disappear!

    • Fossillady profile image

      Kathi 7 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Our K-Mart closed last year in Holland, MI which has been hit hard by the economic down turn, I was said to see it go after all these years. Thanks for sharing

    • The Frog Prince profile image

      The Frog Prince 7 years ago from Arlington, TX

      Many K-Marts have shut the doors for sure. The plus of Sears acquring an interest is that they now sell Craftsmen tools which are some of the best on the market, usually cheaper than Sears does.

      One of my first jobs as a teenager was at the Woolworths down town. Closed and shuttered years ago.

      Good hub.

      The Frog

    • Peter Owen profile image

      Peter Owen 7 years ago from West Hempstead, NY

      ah, memories of woolworth.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @dahoglund : The Woolworth lunch counter!

      @drbj: You may have to shop elsewhere for microtomes and xylotheques.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

      Dang, nicomp, you wrote that xylotomy supplies may be in short supply at the typical K Mart. Now what am I going to do with all my slivers of wood?

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I'm old enough to remember Woolworth and Kresge.I have not lived near a K-Mart for many years however.