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For the Australian department store chain, see Kmart Australia. "K-Mart" is also the nickname of MLB pitcher Carlos Martínez, two NBA players, Kenyon Martin and Kevin Martin, and NFL player Kelvin Martin.
Subsidiary of Sears Holdings Corporation
Industry Retail
Founded 1899 as the S. S. Kresge Company (Detroit, Michigan), 1962 as Kmart
Headquarters Hoffman Estates, Illinois, USA
Products Clothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, electronics, and housewares.

Kmart (often spelled as "K-Mart") is a chain of department stores in the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. The chain merged with Sears in 2005, creating the Sears Holdings Corporation. Kmart also exists in Australia and New Zealand (see Kmart Australia), although it now shares no current relation with the American stores except in name after US equity in the Australian business was purchased in the late 1970s. It is the third biggest discount store chain in the world, behind Wal-Mart and Target.

Former Kmart headquarters in Troy, Michigan.

Sebastian S. Kresge, who had previously founded the S. S. Kresge dime store chain, opened the first Kmart store in 1962 in Garden City, Michigan[1] and named Kmart after himself; this store is still in operation to this day. A total of eighteen Kmart stores opened that year. Kmart Foods, a now defunct chain of Kmart supermarkets, opened in that same decade.

Kmart's world headquarters was located in Troy, Michigan in a sprawling complex which, since Kmart's relocation to Illinois, has been slated for demolition [1].

Kmart became known for its "Blue Light Specials." They occurred at surprise moments when a store worker would light up a mobile police light and offer a discount in a specific department 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, the Kmart Corporation sold its remaining Kresge and Jupiter stores in the United States to McCrory Stores, although Canadian Kresge stores continued to operate until 1994.

Changes for Kmart[edit]

The original Kmart logo that was used from 1962 to 1990. It is still used at many Kmart locations. An updated version of the Kmart logo with the word "mart" done in italics is currently in use in Australia.

During the 1980s, the company's fortunes began to change; many of Kmart's stores were considered to be outdated and in decaying condition. In the late-1980s and into the 1990s, the corporate office shifted much of its focus from the Kmart stores into other companies it had acquired or created, such as The Sports Authority, Builders Square, and Waldenbooks.

In 1990, in an effort to change their image, Kmart introduced a new logo (dropping the old-style italic "K" with a turquoise "mart", created 1962), and renovated many stores. However, most stores were not re-modeled until the mid-1990s, and some have not been completely renovated to this day. This logo was replaced in 2004 with the current logo. In the early 1990s, Kmart tried to reinvent itself by using the short lived Today's Kmart name.

The company also began to offer exclusive merchandise by Martha Stewart, Kathy Ireland, and Jaclyn Smith. Other recognizable brands included Sesame Street and Disney. Rosie O'Donnell and Penny Marshall were among the company's most-recognized spokespersons.

Super Kmart and Big Kmart[edit]

The Kmart logo that was used from 1990 to 2004. It is still used on signs, older buildings, etc.

Kmart opened its first 147,000-square-foot (13,700 m2) Super Kmart[2] in 1991 in Medina, Ohio. The second Super Kmart opened in Montrose, Ohio, which is now closed. Kmart also opened the first Big Kmart in Chicago, Illinois, on April 23, 1997. Some Kmart stores were converted to the Super Kmart concept, but most were converted to the Big Kmart concept, possibly because it showed an indifference to Wal-Mart's Supercenter concept. thumb|right|125px|The Big Kmart logo was used on many of the stores from 1997 to 2004.

Blue Light Special and 1994 Closures[edit]

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 later brought back the Blue Light Special in the early-2000s, but within a few weeks, the program was scrapped.

In 1994, Kmart closed 110 stores. Unlike its competitors Wal-Mart and Target, 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.

Martha Stewart scandal and 9/11 impact[edit]

In 2001, the stock scandal involving Martha Stewart tarnished the corporation's image. In addition, Kmart attempted to compete against Wal-Mart on price by introducing the "Blue Light Always" campaign, which revamped the original blue light concept for lower prices in general. In August 2001, Target sued Kmart for false advertising; Target claimed that its "Dare to Compare" campaign routinely misstated both Kmart's and Target's prices.

Two days after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, Kmart stopped all sales of guns and ammunition, citing their concern for the safety of their customers. Numerous Kmart stores have since returned to selling shotguns and other hunting related firearms and ammunition.


Kmart's lime green prototype logo. This logo was only used at five prototype Kmart locations. Notice how an arrow or chevron is formed within the logo. The name of the city or town is located at the front entrance of the stores underneath or beside this logo.

On January 22, 2002, Kmart filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, led into the bankruptcy by its then chairman Chuck Conaway and president Mark Schwartz. Conaway, who had success building up the CVS Corporation, had accepted an offer to take the helm at Kmart, along with a loan of some $5 million. Similar to the Enron scandal, Conaway and Schwartz were accused of misleading shareholders and other company officials of the company's financial crisis, while they were allegedly making millions and allegedly spending the company's money on airplanes, houses, boats and other luxuries. At a conference for Kmart employees January 22, Conaway accepted "full blame" for the financial disaster. As Kmart emerged from bankruptcy, Conaway was forced to step down and was asked to pay back all the loans he had taken.

While in bankruptcy, Edward Lampert bought K-mart bonds for his hedge fund ESL Investments. On May 6, 2003, Kmart officially emerged from bankruptcy protection as the Kmart Holdings Corporation and on June 10, 2003, it began trading on the NASDAQ as "KMRT." Lampert took control of the company and began to run it for profit instead of sales.

After dismissing Conaway and Schwartz, Kmart closed more than 300 stores in the United States and laid off around 34,000 workers as part of restructuring the company. Kmart introduced five prototype stores with a new logo, layout and color scheme (lime green and gray) with one in White Lake Township, Michigan, a quasi-rural community near Detroit, Michigan, and four locations in central Illinois (one each in Peoria, Pekin, Morton, and Washington). The new layout was touted as having wider aisles, improved selection and lighting as well as the city or town's name under the newly created Kmart logo at the front entrance. However, Kmart could not afford a full-scale rollout. The lime green prototype was abandoned for the new Kmart "orange" concept that rolled out at nine test stores throughout the United States.

Environmental Record[edit]

On May 9, 2007, K-Mart was penalized $102,422 for violating federal environmental regulations that were accounted for 17 distribution centers across the states, which included hazardous waste, emergency planning and preparation regulations to the U.S. Emergency Protection Agency, and violations of clean water.[3] Kmart corrected the violations by preparing and implementing spill prevention control and countermeasure plans, applying for appropriate storm water permits, complying with hazardous waste generator requirements, and submitting reports to state and local emergency planning and response organizations informing them of the presence of hazardous substances.[4] The Environmental Agency also accused Kmart of not maintaining adequate information and failing to act in accordance with hazardous waste storage and disposal requirements.[5] For instance, the EPA reported to have discover improperly labeled oil storage drums at Falls, Pennsylvania.[6]

In concern for the environment, K-Mart promoted the recycling of batteries to the public.[7] K-mart even proposed to spend about $80 million to help recover junk batteries at $2 each on full-page newspaper advertisements.[8]

Merger with Sears, Roebuck and Company[edit]

On November 17, 2004, Kmart announced its intention to purchase Sears, Roebuck and Company. As a part of the merger, the Kmart Holdings Corporation would change its name to Sears Holdings Corporation. The new corporation announced that it would continue to operate stores under both the Sears and Kmart brands.

Store concepts[edit]


The exterior of a typical Big Kmart discount store in Ontario, Oregon.
  • Kmart is a chain of discount department stores that are usually free-standing or located in strip malls. They carry electronics, music, movies, bedding, hardware, sporting goods, clothing, toys, jewelry, office supplies, health and beauty products, home décor, and a limited selection of food items. Many stores also have a garden center, a pharmacy, and usually have a K-Cafe or Little Caesars Pizza Station. Kmart stores range from 80,000 to 110,000 square feet (7,400 to 10,200 m²). Many of these stores were converted into Super Kmart, and most of them were converted into Big Kmart. An urban multilevel variant of a Kmart store is located in Middle Village, Queens, New York.
  • Big Kmart is a chain of discount department stores that carry everything a regular Kmart carries, but with an emphasis on home décor, children's clothing, and more food items. Big Kmart stores range from 84,000 to 120,000 square feet (7,800 to 11,100 m²). Big Kmart stores also feature a garden center, a pharmacy, and usually have a K-Cafe or Little Caesars Pizza Station. Since the merger with Sears, many stores have been converted back to regular Kmarts.
  • Super Kmart is a chain of hypermarkets that carry everything a regular Kmart carries, but has a full grocery section with meat and poultry, baked goods, delicatessen, frozen foods, dairy products, garden produce and fresh seafood. Super Kmart stores range from 140,000 to 190,000 square feet (13,000 to 17,700 m²). These stores are also known as Super Kmart Center. Super Kmart stores also feature a garden center, a video rental store, a branch from a local bank, a pharmacy, and usually have a K-Cafe or Little Caesars Pizza Station. Several also include Kmart Express gas stations. Fewer than 60 Super Kmarts are still open, with most having been closed during the two rounds of closures during 2002 and 2003. [9] Some of the surviving Super Kmarts were those in regions without a strong Wal-Mart presence, including Ohio and Michigan. A typical Super Kmart sells around 30 million dollars of merchandise during one fiscal year.


The exterior of a typical Super Kmart hypermarket. While the concept was introduced in 1991, it was very similar to Kmart Foods.
  • Kmart Foods was a grocery store chain founded in 1962. Most Kmart Foods were together with Kmart stores. The chain was discontinued in the 1970s, but re-introduced in 1991 with Kmart's launch of their Super Kmart concept.
  • Builders Square was a big box home improvement chain of stores. It was sold to Hechinger in 1997, who closed all the Builders Square stores in 1999.
  • Borders Books is a chain of book stores acquired by Kmart in 1992. In 1994, Borders merged with the Kmart chain Waldenbooks to form Borders-Walden Group and was sold off in 1995.
  • OfficeMax is a chain selling office supplies and office furniture which was acquired in 1991, and sold off in 1995.
  • Office Square was a chain selling office supplies and office furniture which was a spin-off of Builders Square. In 1991, OfficeMax was acquired by Kmart and Office Square was merged into OfficeMax stores.
  • Waldenbooks is a chain of mall book stores which was acquired in 1984. In 1994, Kmart chain Borders merged with Waldenbooks to form Borders-Walden Group, and was sold off in 1995.
  • PACE Membership Warehouse was Kmart's wholesale club brand, until the chain was purchased by Wal-Mart. In 1993, Wal-Mart converted most of the stores into their Sam's Club brand, and sold others to chains such as Bradlees.
  • PayLess Drugs was a chain of drug stores acquired by Kmart until it was sold to TCH Corporation in 1994. The resulting entity, Thrifty PayLess was acquired by Rite Aid in 1996, which converted all of the PayLess and Thrifty stores into Rite Aid stores in 1999. The PayLess division also owned Bi-Mart.
  • The Sports Authority is a chain of sporting goods stores which was acquired in 1990, and sold off in 1995.
  • American Fare was a chain of hypermarkets that first opened in January 1989. American Fare was a joint venture between Kmart (which owned 51 percent), and Birmingham, Alabama-based Bruno's Supermarkets. The first store, near Atlanta, Georgia, was 244,000 square feet (larger than most Wal-Mart Supercenters by more than 55,000 square ft). American Fare’s 244,000 square feet (22,700 m2) of retail space included 74,550 square feet (6,926 m2) of groceries, 104,000 square feet (9,700 m2) of general merchandise, and 35,000 square feet (3,300 m2) of clothing (including apparel, footwear, and accessories). A “mall-like” area in the front of the store housed a music and video store, a food court, bank, hair salon, pharmacy and a card store. Charlotte, North Carolina was home to the second American Fare, which opened in late 1989 with only 160,000 square feet (15,000 m2) of retail space. A third and final store opened in Jackson, Mississippi. In June 1992, Bruno's Supermarkets announced that its partnership with the Kmart Corporation was being terminated, and that Kmart would absorb ownership of the three stores. However, the stores were closed in the mid-1990s. The American Fare brand is currently used on some of Kmart's store brand consumable products.

Mascot and Spokesperson[edit]

In May 2007, Sears Holdings Corporation and Kmart named a new mascot and spokesperson for Kmart named Mr. Bluelight. Named after Kmart's well-known "Blue Light Specials," Mr. Bluelight is a talking cartoonish version of a blue light bulb. He also gives customers ideas to help them with their shopping, and making the most out of their Kmart experience. To date Mr. Bluelight has appeared in several television commercials. Specials associated with Mr. Bluelight inside Kmart stores are advertised as "Blue Light Finds" (marked-down merchandise) and "Best of Blue" (higher-end products, often brand-name).

Canada, Europe and Australia stores[edit]

Kmart Australia logo

Kmart was also once a major presence in Canada. However, as a result of Kmart's ongoing financial difficulties, the Canadian division comprising 112 stores was sold to competitor Zellers of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1998, after which the stores were either closed or converted to the Zellers brand.

Like Target stores, Kmart-branded stores in Australia belonged to Coles Myer before being acquired by Wesfarmers in 2007, which also holds the rights to the Kmart brand in New Zealand.

In 1992, Kmart purchased several communist-era department stores in Eastern Europe, including 13 in the former Czechoslovakia that were bought from the former Czechoslovak government. One of those stores was the old Maj department store on Národní Třída in Prague. Many of these outlets were quite profitable, with the Bratislava location setting a single store sales record for the company. But Kmart's larger troubles in the United States caught up with its European operations later in the decade. In March 1996, The Kmart Corporation announced that it had agreed to sell the six Kmart stores in the Czech Republic and the seven in Slovakia to Tesco P.L.C. of Britain for about $117.5 million, to focus on its core operations in North America.

BlueLight Internet Service[edit]

In 1999 Kmart began offering a dial-up internet service called Bluelight which eventually spun off into its own company. Bluelight was initially free and supported by banner ads. BlueLight dropped the free service in February 2001 and was reacquired by Kmart in July 2001. In 2002 United Online, which owns the NetZero and Juno bought the Bluelight service after Kmart filed for bankruptcy. In 2006, Bluelight dropped the banners. The service now cost $8.95 a month and has around 165,000 subscribers.

List of CEOs[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The first Kmart - includes related articles - 30 Years of K Mart - Cover Story | Discount Store News | Find Articles at
  2. ^ Super K's new phase will be to develop a more complete store with a broader mix
  3. ^ "Kmart Consent Agreement and Final Order". 05/09/07. Retrieved 06 May 2008.  Check date values in: |date=, |accessdate= (help)
  4. ^ "Webwire". 05/11/2007. Retrieved 06 May 2008.  Check date values in: |date=, |accessdate= (help)
  5. ^ "Bucks County Courier Times". May 9, 2007. Retrieved 06 May 2008.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  6. ^ "Bucks County Courier Times". May 9, 2007. Retrieved 06 May 2008.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  7. ^ "Aftermarket Business". 08/01/91. Retrieved 06 May 2008.  Check date values in: |date=, |accessdate= (help)
  8. ^ "K mart launches battery recyling". 06/18/90. Retrieved 06 May 2008.  Check date values in: |date=, |accessdate= (help)
  9. ^ Kmart At A Glance

External links[edit]

Category:Companies established in 1899 Category:Sears Holdings Corporation Category:Discount stores of the United States Kmart Category:Companies based in Detroit, Michigan