Kmart Corporation History

Address:
3100 West Big Beaver Road
Troy, Michigan 48084-3163
U.S.A.

Telephone: (248) 463-1000
Toll Free: 800-63-KMART; (800) 635-6278
Fax: (248) 463-5636

Website:
Public Company
Incorporated: 1912 as S.S. Kresge Company
Employees: 252,000
Sales: $37.03 billion (2001)
Stock Exchanges: New York Pacific Chicago
Ticker Symbol: KM
NAIC: 452910 Warehouse Clubs and Superstores; 452990 All Other General Merchandise Stores; 454110 Electronic Shopping and Mail-Order Houses

Company Perspectives:

We expect Kmart will emerge from the Chapter 11 process as a much stronger company poised for profitability and growth.

Key Dates:

1897:
Sebastian Spering Kresge and John McCrory form partnership to open five-and-dime stores in Detroit and Memphis.
1899:
Partnership is dissolved, and Kresge takes over the Detroit stores, forming S.S. Kresge Company.
1912:
S.S. Kresge Company, with 85 stores and $10.3 million in sales, is incorporated.
1918:
Company goes public with a listing on the New York Stock Exchange.
1929:
First store in Canada opens; a Kresge store is opened in the first suburban shopping center in United States; store total reaches 597 and sales hit $156.3 million.
1962:
First discount store, called Kmart, opens in the Detroit suburb of Garden City.
1977:
With Kmarts accounting for almost 95 percent of sales, the company changes its name to Kmart Corporation.
1984:
Diversification into specialty retailing begins with purchase of Home Centers of America (renamed Builders Square) and Walden Book Company.
1985:
First celebrity product line is introduced--the Jaclyn Smith line of clothes.
1987:
Martha Stewart's association with Kmart begins; most U.S. Kresge and Jupiter stores are sold to McCrory Corporation.
1989:
PACE Membership Warehouse Inc. is acquired.
1990:
Wal-Mart surpasses Kmart in sales.
1991:
First Super Kmart opens in Medina, Ohio, featuring a full-service grocery store and general merchandise; 90 percent stake in OfficeMax is acquired.
1992:
Borders book superstore chain is acquired.

1994-95:Numerous noncore assets are shed, including PACE, OfficeMax, Sports Authority, Borders Group, and 860 auto service centers.
1995:
More than 200 U.S. stores are closed.
1997:
The Big Kmart format debuts; the Martha Stewart Everyday line of bed and bath products is launched.
1998:
Kmart sells its stores in Canada to Hudson's Bay Company.
2001:
Declining sales amid intense competition leads to liquidity crisis and halts in shipments from major vendors.
2002:
Kmart files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, becoming the largest retailer ever to do so; company announces that it will close 284 stores.

Company History:

Kmart Corporation, which entered 2002 as the second largest U.S. discount retailer (behind Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.) with over 2,100 outlets in 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, once so dominated the discount store marketplace that few believed any competitor could shake its mighty grip. Yet too much diversification, too little attention to its core business, and brutal competition--particularly from the mighty Wal-Mart--led to a prolonged state of decline and ultimately to a filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2002. The company soon announced a host of changes in upper management, the planned closure of hundreds of stores, and various efforts at improving operations in a massive turnaround effort that was far from guaranteed of success.

Kresge Red Fronts and Green Fronts: 1899 to 1929

The giant Kmart Corporation grew from a Detroit five-and-dime store opened in 1899. Its proprietor was Sebastian Spering Kresge, a former Pennsylvania tinware salesman, who along with a partner, John McCrory, adopted the chain-store idea first used by Frank W. Woolworth. When Kresge and McCrory dissolved the partnership they had formed in 1897, McCrory took over the stores in Memphis, and Kresge maintained those in Detroit, forming S.S. Kresge Company. Kresge's eponymous outlet sold costume jewelry, housewares, and personal grooming aids. Its success encouraged him to open a second store in Port Huron, Michigan, the same year; others followed in rapid succession. By 1912, when Kresge incorporated his company in Delaware with a capitalization of $7 million, there were 85 stores producing annual sales of $10.3 million. Four years later he reincorporated in Michigan, this time with a $12 million capitalization. In 1918 the firm went public with a listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

Always in high-traffic, convenient locations, Kresge Red Front stores featured open displays of merchandise with items systematically associated. Following their founder's abhorrence of credit, they kept their prices to thrifty nickel and dime limits, until inflation after World War I made the cost of many items too high. Undaunted, Kresge opened a chain of Green Front units in 1920, all selling merchandise at prices ranging between 25 cents and $1. He also acquired Mount Clemens Pottery, to supply the stores with ever popular inexpensive dinnerware.

In 1924 the company's 257 stores generated annual sales of $90 million. Convinced this success should go hand in hand with corporate responsibility toward the less fortunate, the company founder established the Kresge Foundation, making an initial contribution of $1.3 million plus securities worth $65 million.

The following year Kresge resigned the presidency he had held since 1907 to concentrate on long-range goal-setting as company chairman. His planning bore fruit in January 1929, when a Kresge store opened in the United States' first suburban shopping center, Country Club Plaza, in Kansas City, Missouri, thereby anticipating a shift in shopping patterns by some 15 years.

Another long-range goal crystallized in September 1928, with the formation of a Canadian subsidiary that opened the country's first Kresge store the following May. Based in Kitchener, Ontario, the initial venture was so successful that the company's $5 million investment financed another 18 stores in locations from Winnipeg to Montreal by the end of 1929. These brought the total number of Kresge stores to 597, together yielding sales of $156.3 million.

Weathering the Great Depression: 1930-40

The company's orderly expansion changed after 1929, when the Depression-era stock market plunged the price of Kresge stock from $57.50 per share to an eventual low of $5.50. This was a severe blow to company management, which had pledged its support by taking turns to buy the deflated stock, gambling on its bottoming out at $26. Kresge found himself at a loss, having promised to buy 100,000 shares he could no longer afford, and the company took them off his hands. By 1936, however, the chairman had bought back at cost his own shares plus the 251,306 others owned by the management.

The Depression also brought falling sales as well as inventory losses through the failure of suppliers' businesses. Competition also increased; the scramble for the retail dollar fueled rivalry from Sears, Roebuck and prompted other chains to open department store "bargain basements." Forced to broaden its inventory to meet this threat, Kresge had to raise its prices, so that Green Front stores had many items selling for up to $3 despite their former $1 ceiling.

With the Depression over by 1940, there were 682 stores in 27 U.S. states, plus 61 in Canada. Together, the stores produced 1940 sales of $158.7 million. As the decade advanced, many homeowners moved out to the suburbs from inner-city locations; the retailers followed. Kresge management cautiously opened one suburban shopping center store in 1947, adding to the first one that had opened in 1929. Three more followed in 1948. By 1953 there were about 40 suburban stores in the United States, plus one in Canada.

Massive Expansion: 1950s

By the mid-1950s Chairman Sebastian Kresge was long retired from active company management. An operating committee of 16 executives appointed by the board of directors steered the corporate strategy. Although the committee frequently combined smaller stores in high-volume areas to provide better selection and more efficient service, there were 616 U.S. stores by 1954, plus 74 in Canada. Many of the units featured modern conveniences such as air conditioning, self-service displays, and shopping baskets. All these operations combined to reach sales figures totaling $337.9 million in 1954--up from $223.2 million in 1945.

Although the variety store image still guided company activities during the 1950s, pricing limits were fading away, with the concept of discount retailing coming to the fore in its stead. Kresge offered economical private-label products ranging from clothing to house paint. The variety of brand-name offerings also broadened to include electric appliances, radios, and lawnmowers.

In the late 1950s food grew into the largest single department, warranting training in food management for all store managers. Many stores had delicatessens, and Kresge in-store luncheonettes provided shoppers with a large assortment of snacks, lunches, and dinners devised by the test kitchen at the company's Detroit headquarters. By 1958 these mini-restaurants were so popular that at least one new or remodeled facility opened alongside a delicatessen counter in some Kresge store each week.

A wider variety of merchandise plus higher pricing brought a need for a layaway plan allowing customers to save for expensive items. It was, however, still against company policy to offer credit, although competitors were luring customers in this way.

In 1959, coinciding with the opening of the first Kresge store in Puerto Rico, Harry Blair Cunningham succeeded to the presidency of S.S. Kresge Company. Cunningham, aged 58, had been with Kresge since 1928. A former newspaper reporter, he had worked his way up from trainee status through the store manager ranks, eventually becoming general vice-president. Twin assignments went with this position: one was to tour all of Kresge's U.S. stores, assessing the future position of the company and its competitors in the variety store industry; the other was to prepare himself for the company presidency, when Franklin Williams would retire in two years' time.

Cunningham's travels convinced him that Kresge's competitors were not other variety chains, but the new discounters aiming for fast inventory turnover, which they could achieve by lower markups on a large assortment of small items. Discounting, in fact, was a return to Sebastian Kresge's basic merchandising philosophy, which would be a bulwark against competition in the future, just as it had been in the past. Cunningham, after a period of testing, concluded that higher sales volume, rather than higher markups, would boost the company's profits, which had dropped during the 1950s.

The Birth of Kmart: 1960s

In 1962 the company opened its first discount store in the Detroit suburb of Garden City, calling it Kmart. Within a year, there were 17 others. Unlike Kresge stores, Kmarts were not placed in shopping centers but were built in plazas by themselves, to avoid internal competition and also to provide ample parking. To ensure a 25 percent annual pretax return on investment, each store featured decor that was pleasant, though not extravagant, and each aimed for eight inventory turnovers per year. The Kmart stores were an instant success; by 1963, there were 63 facilities, 51 of which provided repair and maintenance service for automobiles. Three years later, the number of Kmarts had swelled to 122.

The Kmart introduction still left the company with a number of older Kresge stores, still on long leases, which were too small to display Kmart's expanded merchandise lines. Numerous Kresge stores, mostly in deteriorating business areas, were renamed Jupiter Discount Stores and converted to facilities offering a limited variety of low markup, fast-moving merchandise such as clothes, drugstore items, and housewares. By 1966 there were almost 100 Jupiter stores in operation.

In 1965 the company underwent several changes. One involved the sale of longtime subsidiary Mount Clemens Pottery. Another was the acquisition of Holly Stores, a retailer of women's and children's clothing that had been a Kmart licensee since 1962, and was operating clothing departments in 124 Kmarts, Kresges, and Jupiters at the time of the acquisition. The same year, the company acquired Dunhams Stores Corporation, a sporting goods supplier already operating under license in 42 Kmarts. Dunhams then became Kmart Sporting Goods, Inc.

S.S. Kresge Company's sales for 1965 reached a record $851 million, representing a 23.6 percent gain from 1964. There were 895 stores, of which 108 were in Canada. Although discount retailing had gained momentum somewhat later in Canada than in the United States, the Canadian subsidiary had opened its first Kmart in London, Ontario, in 1963. At the same time, while inner-city deterioration in Canada had not reached the same level as in U.S. cities, the company turned some of its smaller, older Canadian stores into Jupiters.

The successful Canadian operations made a large contribution to the total sales figures for 1966, which topped $1 billion for the first time, reflecting a 28 percent rise over 1965. Company founder Sebastian Kresge did not live to see this triumph. He died in September 1966 at the age of 99, having retired from the company chairmanship only three months earlier. Also in 1966, the famous "Blue Light Special" was invented by a Kmart manager in Fort Wayne, Indiana, who was seeking a way to make it easier for his customers to find the Christmas wrapping paper that he was clearing; the Blue Light Special went on to be adopted chainwide and become an American icon. Meantime, spurred by its Canadian success, the company found another international opportunity in Australia, via a joint venture: Kmart (Australia) Limited, with retailer G.J. Coles & Coy, Limited. The 1968 undertaking, in which Kmart held 51 percent of the shares, produced five Australian Kmarts by 1970.

By 1969 S.S. Kresge Company had decided against purchasing the licensee of its automotive departments, instead opening another subsidiary called Kmart Enterprises, Inc., to operate the departments, now so popular that 56 had opened in that year alone. That year the number of company stores stood at 1,022, sales at $4.6 billion, and average profit per store at $42,358.

Further Diversification: 1970s

As the 1960s ended, an economic slowdown posed challenges for S.S. Kresge. The company resorted to heavier-than-usual promotional markdowns in December 1969 and January 1970 that shaved profit margins. Other problems included the difficulty of keeping to a 25 percent annual rate of sales gain for an ever expanding number of stores; the fact that the rate of sales growth in a store slowed as the store aged; and the increase in inventory that came from formerly licensed in-store departments. All these factors led to an earnings slowdown in 1970's first quarter, bringing company stock down 11.5 points in one day. Still, sales for 1970 reached almost $2.2 billion.

In 1972 Cunningham was succeeded as chief executive by Robert E. Dewar, a former company lawyer and president since 1970. The presidency was filled by Ervin Wardlow, whose forte was merchandising.

The three upper managers hurdled these challenges with strategies forged under Cunningham's tenure, such as the centralized buying for both Kresge and Kmart stores that reduced possible in-house conflict between variety store and discount divisions. The company also expanded its management training program, so variety store managers could switch to discount facilities with ease. Meticulous crafting of the training program guaranteed each store manager could make decisions about products, promotions, pricing, and locations to ensure the store's competitiveness. Other policies included limiting each store to one entrance and exit, thus reducing staff needs and escalating sales per employee, and designing smaller stores of 65,000 to 70,000 square feet, adequate for smaller, more affluent shopping communities. All of these changes gave the company a chance to upgrade merchandise while phasing out leased departments on all items except shoes.

The course charted for the 1970s brought Kresge an annual sales growth of 22 percent from 1972 to 1976, with 1976 sales totaling $8.4 billion. The company, however, was not without its failures. A fast-food drive-in chain called Kmart Chef, set up in 1967, closed in 1974 after having peaked at just 11 units. The costly credit card operation, used by only 9 percent of Kmart's customers, was withdrawn the same year, while a $65 million purchase of Planned Marketing Associates, an insurance company renamed Kmart Insurance Services Inc., brought a loss of $8 million in 1975, although a modest profit of $344,000 was recorded for 1976. By this time the company's 1,206 Kmarts were accounting for almost 95 percent of sales. For this reason, shareholders changed the company name to Kmart Corporation in 1977.

Bolstering a Faded Image: 1978-89

The late 1970s saw changes in Kmart's seemingly impregnable position. New competitors with more inviting stores made company facilities seem shoddy, and specialty stores began to stock Kmart staples such as sports equipment, drugs, and personal grooming aids. Changes in public taste showed up in lagging profits, which sank 27 percent in 1980 on record sales reaching $14.2 billion. Other warning signals showed in plunging inventory turnover, which dropped from the 8 times annually level of the 1960s to 3.8 times by 1979. Utility bills, wages, and other overhead costs soared because of inflation, but fierce competition prevented the company from raising its discount prices.

Kmart responded by cutting the number of scheduled new stores in favor of remodeling existing units and restocking them with more fashionable merchandise. It also installed a computer system to handle inventories, orders, shipments, and other procedures that could speed up delivery times to each store. Other changes included the 1978 sale of the company's 51 percent interest in Kmart (Australia) Limited to G.J. Coles & Coy for a 20 percent stake in G.J. Coles & Coy (known as Coles Myer Ltd. following a 1985 merger), thus closing out Kmart's ownership of the Australian Kmart stores.

Bernard M. Fauber succeeded Dewar as chairman and chief executive in 1980. Fauber steered the company through an economic slowdown and into diversification that year, with purchase of a 44 percent interest in a Mexican discount chain, as well as a joint venture into Japanese mass-merchandising with Japan's biggest retailer, The Daiei, Inc. Kmart also bought Texas-based Furr's Cafeterias Inc., a 76-unit chain that was a natural outgrowth of the cafeterias in Kmart stores.

In 1984 Kmart expanded its acquisition program and diversified into specialty markets. Because Kmart had already been experimenting with its home improvement departments, a logical move was the $88.2 million purchase of a nine-unit Texas chain called Home Centers of America, Inc. Kmart made Home Centers' operations into warehouse-type stores, changing the name to Builders Square. Next came the Walden Book Company (Waldenbooks), costing $300 million for 845 stores that had produced sales of $417 million in 1983. An Oregon-based chain of 164 drugstores called PayLess joined the growing lineup in 1985.

There was another change in 1985--this one in Kmart strategy when apparel division president Joseph Antonini launched a new line of clothes named for and designed by actress Jaclyn Smith that helped turn apparel into the company's fastest-growing business. By the time he succeeded to the company chairmanship in 1987, Antonini's strategy had added racing driver Mario Andretti to the list for automotive accessories promotions, Fuzzy Zoeller for golf products, and domestic doyenne Martha Stewart for kitchen and housewares support. The celebrities helped the bottom line--profits for 1987 rose 19 percent, to reach $692 million on total sales of $25.6 billion. Other factors in year-end figures were the sale of all U.S. Kresge and Jupiter stores to McCrory Corporation (the business founded by Sebastian Kresge's original partner); the $238 million sale of Furr's Cafeterias and another cafeteria chain called Bishop Buffets, Inc., to Cavalcade Foods, Inc.; and the disposal of Mexican interests.

New ventures in 1988 included a partnership with Bruno's Inc., a food retailer, which generated the American Fare hypermarket near Atlanta in 1989; purchase of a 51 percent ownership interest in Makro Inc., which operated membership warehouses; and launch of Office Square, a discount office supply chain. In 1989 Kmart acquired PACE Membership Warehouse Inc. and the remaining 49 percent of Makro, converting Makro stores to PACE formats. It also opened Sports Giant, a group of sporting goods stores, and finished the year with sales of $27.7 billion and income of $800 million.

Beleaguered but Not Beaten: Early 1990s

The company changed its logo from red and turquoise to red and white, with "mart" written within the larger "K" in 1990. Next came the acquisition of The Sports Authority into which it rolled the Sports Giant stores. Kmart also began a long overdue six-year overhaul of its stores (including openings, closings, enlargements, and refurbishings) to help shore up its image. By this time, Wal-Mart had emerged as a credible threat and overtook Kmart in sales and market share in 1990. The following year, Kmart opened the first Super Kmart Center in Medina, Ohio, combining a full-service grocery store with the Kmart general merchandise selection and opening 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Still believing diversification was a good investment, the company purchased a 21.6 percent interest in OfficeMax, an office supply chain, in 1990 then increased the stake to 90 percent in 1991. By 1992 Kmart was still in an acquisition mode, buying 13 stores in the Czech Republic and Slovakia's Maj department store chain; Borders book superstores as a complement to Waldenbooks; and Intelligent Electronic's Bizmart chain. Sales for 1992 hit $34.6 million, a healthy notch above 1991's $32.5 billion, and Kmart's workforce reached an all-time high of 373,000.

Realizing that Kmart's future lay in its core retail business, the company began shedding noncore assets and sprucing up its stores. In 1993 Kmart sold 91 of its 113 PACE membership Warehouses to Wal-Mart. In 1994 came the spinoff of OfficeMax and the Sports Authority (keeping a quarter interest in the former and 30 percent of the latter); the sale of PayLess Drug Stores (retaining 46 percent interest) and its 22 percent interest in Coles Myer Ltd.; an alliance to open stores in Mexico and Singapore; and the launch of Kathy Ireland's apparel line. Sales for 1993 had hit a high of $37.7 billion with income of $941 million; sales for 1994 fell to $34.6 billion but the big news was a staggering loss of $940 million.

More serious than ever in its reorganization, Kmart's newest journey began with the appointment of Floyd Hall, former chairman of Target stores, as president, CEO, and chairman of the board in June 1995. Next came the spinoff of the Borders Group (Borders and Waldenbooks' combined corporate name), the sale of its remaining interest in OfficeMax and the Sports Authority, and the divestment of 860 auto service centers to the Penske Corp. With widespread rumors of bankruptcy, the downgrading of its rating, and analysts predicting Kmart's demise, many wondered if the nearly 100-year-old retailer could survive increased competition from both Wal-Mart's and Target's newer, snazzier stores. Hall set out to prove Kmart not only was not going under--but had just begun to fight.

Short-Lived Comeback: Late 1990s

After closing 214 stores, disposing of its Czech, Slovak, and Singapore properties, and pledging to reduce expenses by $600-$800 million, Kmart was ready to prove its retail mettle. Its new merchandising credo centered around four simple words: brands, consumables, convenience, and culture. To help achieve its goals came a new advertising campaign featuring comedian Rosie O'Donnell and director Penny Marshall, a massive shakeup in upper management, and the launch of a multiyear $750 million remodeling program. The latter involved the introduction of the Big Kmart format, which was cleaner and brighter and featured wider aisles for easier shopping. Other key changes were the addition of a section of consumable goods conveniently located near the front of the stores and an increased emphasis on the children's and home furnishings departments. By the end of 1998, 1,245 of the company's stores (or 62 percent of the total) had been converted to the Big Kmart format.

Another important initiative was an expansion of popular brand-name and private-label lines, particularly the 1997 launch of the Martha Stewart Everyday line of bed and bath products through a strategic alliance between Kmart and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia L.L.C., which Stewart had formed earlier that year to oversee her growing empire. The Martha Stewart line was expanded to include garden and patio products as well as baby products in 1999, and that year the line generated more than $1 billion in sales. Proving successful as well was the launch of a line of Sesame Street children's apparel and juvenile products.

Also in 1997, Kmart announced the sale of its remaining interest in Thrifty PayLess to Rite Aid, refinanced its debt load, started leasing out hundreds of its largest parking lots, and built a hip new three-story Kmart in Manhattan near Greenwich Village. The firm also sold its interest in its Mexican joint venture and sold Builders Square to Leonard Green & Partners for a mere $10 million. Further retrenchment came in February 1998 when Kmart sold its 112 stores in Canada to Hudson's Bay Company for US$167.7 million (the stores were either closed or converted to other formats, mainly Zellers).

Through these and other moves, Hall succeeded in saving Kmart from oblivion, and the firm returned to profitability in the fiscal year ending in January 1998, posting net income of $249 million on sales of $32.18 billion, and stayed in the black for the following two years. By 1999 Hall was confident enough of the company's future to announce plans to open 400 stores over the next five years, with half of the units to be Super Kmart Centers. About 100 new stores were opened in 1999, the same year that Kmart ventured into e-commerce with the formation of BlueLight.com, a joint venture formed by Kmart, Softbank Corp., Yahoo! Inc., and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Kmart also signed agreements in 1999 with Fleming Companies, Inc. and SuperValu Inc. to distribute grocery items to its stores. Despite this string of positive developments, underlying and significant problems remained, and Hall's expansion program quickly proved to be premature.

Falling into Bankruptcy, Early 21st Century

Hall retired as chairman, president, and CEO in early 2000. Hired as the new chairman and CEO was 39-year-old Charles C. "Chuck" Conaway, who had been president and COO of CVS Corporation, the giant drugstore chain. Conaway moved quickly to implement major changes as Kmart's financial performance began to once again head south. He shook up senior management, announced that 72 underperforming stores would be closed, and launched a $1.7 billion program to improve the supply chain and attempt to resolve the chain's chronic problem of keeping items in stock. The new initiatives continued in 2001. The company inked a deal with Fleming, making that firm the exclusive supplier of food and consumables for Kmarts and Super Kmarts. The Martha Stewart Everyday line was expanded even further, and an agreement was reached to develop a new and exclusive line of Disney children's clothing. On the marketing side, Conaway brought back the Blue Light Special--which had been shelved in 1991--in an attempt to instill some excitement into the stores, and prices were permanently trimmed on 38,000 everyday items in a new "Blue Light Always" pricing strategy.

This last maneuver, an ill-advised attempt at beating Wal-Mart at its own game that was launched in August 2001, proved to be a critical mistake. Not only did Wal-Mart move quickly and ruthlessly to match or undercut the prices, but Kmart also compounded its mistake by simultaneously and drastically cutting back its distribution of expensive advertising circulars. Customers used to the circulars simply stopped shopping at Kmart, and same-store sales fell throughout the final months of 2001, including during the crucial holiday selling season. The declining sales resulted in a liquidity crisis and halts in shipments from major vendors, leading the company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on January 22, 2002, becoming the largest retailer ever to do so.

Just prior to the filing, James B. Adamson was named Kmart chairman, with Conaway remaining CEO. Adamson had been a Kmart director since 1996 and had previously served as chairman and CEO of Advantica Restaurant Group, Inc., owner and operator of mid-priced restaurant chains, such as Denny's. In March 2002 Conaway resigned and Adamson took on the position of CEO as well. That month, Kmart announced that it would close 284 underperforming stores, resulting in the elimination of 22,000 jobs and a charge of more than $1 billion. As the company attempted to emerge from bankruptcy by mid-2003, its biggest challenge was to find a niche to occupy. Many observers were doubtful that a major discount chain could find such a niche given the strengths of the two main rivals: Wal-Mart with its rock-bottom prices and extensive grocery aisles and Target with its discount prices for slightly upscale products. In February 2002 Kmart launched a new advertising campaign featuring television commercials directed by Spike Lee and sporting a "family values" theme and the tagline "Kmart. The Stuff of Life." In a company press release, Steven Feuling, a senior marketing vice-president, said that "Kmart's goal with this campaign is to build an emotional bond with the consumer by re-establishing the role Kmart plays in its shoppers' lives." Whether this campaign and the company's other initiatives would be enough to save Kmart remained to be seen.

Principal Competitors: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.; Target Corporation.

Further Reading:

  • Brauer, Molly, "Kmart Posts Profit, Denies Buyout Rumor," Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, November 21, 1996.
  • Byrne, Harlan S., "New Look at Kmart: The Retailer Goes Upscale and Its Earnings Follow Suit," Barron's, May 11, 1987, pp. 8+.
  • Coleman, Calmetta Y., "Grand Designs: Ask Ms. Stewart's Advice for How to Improve Kmart," Wall Street Journal, May 1, 2000, pp. A1+.
  • Fauber, Bernard M., "Kmart's New Directions," Discount Merchandiser, November 1983, pp. 34+.
  • Gallanis, Peter J., "Next Chapter in Kmart's Book Reads Refinement, Expansion," Discount Store News, March 6, 2000, pp. 51+.
  • Halverson, Richard, "Leaner, Meaner, Cleaner: Nearly $1 Billion in Cost Cutting Has Goosed Earnings and Improved Efficiencies," Discount Store News, December 9, 1996, p. 27.
  • Hays, Constance L., "Kmart to Close 284 Stores; 22,000 Jobs Will Be Cut," New York Times, March 9, 2002.
  • Hazel, Debra, "Kmart: Is the Rebound Real?," Chain Store Age, May 1997, pp. 45-48.
  • Johnson, Jay L., "Kmart's Solution," Discount Merchandiser, November 1999, pp. 27+.
  • "Kmart: It All Begins and Ends in the Store," Discount Merchandiser, August 1986, pp. 106+.
  • "Kmart Rises from Would-Be Fall, but Others Not So Lucky," Discount Store News, July 1, 1996, p. 59.
  • Koudsi, Suzanne, "Attention Kmart Bashers: The Folks at BlueLight Are Turning the Troubled Retailer into an Online Force. And Wal-Mart Is Watching," Fortune, November 13, 2000, pp. 213+.
  • Kresge, Stanley Sebastian, S.S. Kresge Company and Its Builder, Sebastian Spering Kresge, New York: Newcomen Society in North America, 1957, 32 p.
  • ------, The S.S. Kresge Story, Racine, Wis.: Western Publishing, 1979, 373 p.
  • "Kresge's," Fortune, June 1, 1940.
  • "Kresge's Triple-Threat Retailing," Business Week, January 29, 1966.
  • Kruger, Renée, "Big Plans at Kmart," Discount Merchandiser, June 1997, pp. 20+.
  • Lieback, Laura, "Kmart's To-Do List: Succession, Status, Stability," Discount Store News, March 9, 1998, pp. 22+.
  • ------, "A New Day Dawns for Kmart," Discount Store News, March 22, 1999, pp. 23+.
  • Main, Jeremy, "Kmart's Plan to Be Born Again, Again," Fortune, September 21, 1981, pp. 74+.
  • Mammarella, James, "The Martha-ization of Kmart's Home," Discount Store News, December 9, 1996, p. H3.
  • Mayer, Caroline E., "Budget Retailer Kmart Tries to Dress Up Its Bargain-Basement Image," Washington Post, October 4, 1987, p. H1.
  • Merrick, Amy, "Expensive Ad Circulars Help Precipitate Kmart President's Departure," Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2002, pp. B1, B6.
  • ------, "Kmart Lays Out Plans to Trim Its Size, Increase Efficiency in Bankruptcy Filing," Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2002, pp. A3, A6.
  • ------, "Kmart Says CEO Conaway Resigned, Adds Post to Cart of Chairman Adamson," Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2002, pp. A3, A10.
  • ------, "Kmart Store Closures Will Include Many of Its New Ones," Wall Street Journal, April 5, 2002, p. B4.
  • Mitchell, Russell, and Amy Dunkin, "How They're Knocking the Rust Off Two Old Chains: As Other Old-Line Mass Merchandisers Struggle, Woolworth and Kmart Soar," Business Week, September 8, 1986, pp. 44+.
  • Muller, Joann, "Kmart's Last Chance," Business Week, March 11, 2002, pp. 68-69.
  • ------, "Kmart: The Flood Waters Are Rising," Business Week, January 28, 2002, p. 106.
  • Muller, Joann, and Ann Therese Palmer, "Kmart's Bright Idea," Business Week, April 9, 2001, pp. 50+.
  • Muller, Joann, and Diane Brady, "A Kmart Special: Better Service," Business Week, September 4, 2000, pp. 80, 82.
  • Naughton, Keith, "Bright Lights, Big City Won't Cut It for Kmart," Business Week, May 26, 1997, p. 57.
  • Perman, Stacy, "Attention KMartha Shoppers," Time, October 6, 1997, pp. 55-58, 60.
  • Sanger, Elizabeth, "Value at a Discount: Kmart Can Still Deliver the Goods," Barron's, February 28, 1983, pp. 24+.
  • Schlesinger, Jacob M., "Kmart's New Look Seems to Be Taking Hold," Wall Street Journal, September 2, 1986.
  • Schwadel, Francine, "Kmart Is Trying to Put Style on the Aisle--Will Upscale Image Confuse Core Customers?," Wall Street Journal, August 9, 1988.
  • Sellers, Patricia, "Attention, Kmart Shoppers," Fortune, January 2, 1989.
  • "S.S. Kresge Expansion Is Costly," Barron's, September 7, 1936.
  • Taub, Stephen, "Can Kmart Come Back Again?," Financial World, March 31, 1983, pp. 50+.
  • Wellman, M.G., "Kmart's Repositioning for Growth," Discount Merchandiser, April 1988, pp. 40+.
  • "When 2 Cents = $380 Million," Forbes, April 1, 1970.

    Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 47. St. James Press, 2002.

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