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December 29, 2011

Somerset Kmart spared

Local store not among 100 being closed nationally

Somerset —    Somerset’s Kmart will not close.

   Anita Holmes, assistant manager at Somerset Kmart, assured yesterday the local discount store is NOT among at least 100 Kmart stores that will close. “It’s fine,” Holmes said, alluding to Somerset Kmart. She declined further comment.

   Sears Holdings announced Tuesday it will close at least 100 stores as a cost-cutting measure following a disappointing holiday season. The retailer's namesake Sears and Kmart stores have struggled against competitors such as Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot.

  Sears says it will save as much as $170 million through the store closings. It did not say how many employees will lose their jobs.

Holmes declined comment on how many employees work at Somerset Kmart. She said the only comment she is authorized to make is the local store will not close. The Kmart store in Somerset opened in the mid-1970s as an anchor for Cumberland Square shopping center, located off Ky. 80 bypass.

   Kmart, sometimes styled "K-Mart," is a chain of discount stores headquartered in the United States. The chain acquired Sears in 2005, forming a new corporation under the name Sears Holdings Corporation.   

   The company was founded in 1962 and is the third largest discount store chain in the world, behind Wal-Mart and Target, with stores in the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. As of January 29, 2011, Kmart operated a total of 1,307 Kmart stores.

   Kmart became known for its "Blue Light Specials." Specials were announced 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 discount chain had humble beginnings. More than 100 years ago, Sebastian Spering Kresge opened a modest five-and-dime store in downtown Detroit, and changed the entire landscape of retailing.

   The store that Kresge built has evolved into an empire of more than 1,500 stores and an Internet presence that reaches millions of customers. The Kmart name has become a symbol of Americana, standing for quality products at low prices.

   When Kresge opened his first store in 1899, he sold everything for 5 and 10 cents. The low prices appealed to shoppers and allowed him to expand to 85 stores in 1912, with annual sales of more than $10 million.

   War and financial depressions hit America hard over the next decades, but Kresge stores were always there to offer families products at prices they could afford. They also offered people what other businesses at the time could not -- jobs to support their families.   

   As time went on, prices may have changed, but the business philosophy stayed the same -- offer consumers products they need at prices they can afford -- and they'll keep coming back.

   By the mid-1920s, the S.S. Kresge Company was opening locations that sold items for $1 or less, a precursor to the current discount store. These ''green-front'' stores often were next to the traditional red-front five-and-dime Kresge stores.

   Ten years later in 1937, Kresge opened a store in the country's first suburban shopping center -- Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.

   The retail environment was getting more competitive, and again Kresge blazed the trail for future retailers by launching a newspaper advertising program to entice shoppers to its stores. Those print ads were the precursor to radio promotions, which followed 20 years later, and then TV commercials, which began to air in 1968. Kmart is still the leading print promotional retailer, with weekly circulars reaching millions of households each week.

   By the 1950s, it was evident that the company needed to change to continue to be a leader in the growing competitive retail environment. That change came through Harry B. Cunningham, who became Kresge president in 1959. Cunningham had been studying other discount houses and developed a new strategy for the Kresge organization.

   Under Cunningham's leadership, the first Kmart discount department store opened in 1962 in Garden City, Michigan. Seventeen additional Kmart stores opened that year, leading to corporate sales of more than $483 million that year.

   Just four years later in 1966, sales in 162 Kmart stores and 753 Kresge stores topped the $1 billion mark. In 1976, S.S. Kresge made history by opening 271 Kmart stores in one year, becoming the first-ever retailer to launch 17 million square feet of sales space in a single year.

   In 1977, nearly 95 percent of S.S. Kresge Company sales were generated by Kmart stores. To reflect this dramatic impact, the company officially changed its name to Kmart Corporation. Ten years later, Kmart sold the remaining Kresge stores to fully concentrate on discount merchandising.

   In 1990, Kmart unveiled a bold new logo and a bold new plan -- a five-year, $3.5 billion new-store opening, enlargement and modernization program to focus the business back on what mattered most -- its Kmart stores.

   In 1991, as part of the new plan, Kmart opened the first Kmart Supercenter in Medina, Ohio, offering a full-service grocery along with general merchandise 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

   In 1996, a complete redesign of the Kmart store was launched, making them cleaner, brighter and easier to shop. A ''Pantry'' department selling frequently purchased consumable goods was moved toward the front of the store and a new focus was placed on the Children's and Home Fashions departments. These ''big'' changes were signified by a new name for the remodeled stores -- ''Big Kmart.''

   Somerset’s Kmart is a Big Kmart.

National and international historical information from Wikipedia. Bill Mardis may be contacted at bmardis@somerset-kentucky.com or telephone 451-4919

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