attention kmart shoppers
After dominating the retail landscape for years, Kmart has all but disappeared in the United States.
Once the Kmart in Avanel, New Jersey, closes for good on Saturday, there will be just three stores in the continental U.S. — Westwood, New Jersey; Bridgehampton, New York; and Miami, Florida — and a few outside of the country. At the company's peak in the 1990s, there were more than 2,300 Kmarts in the U.S.
The first Kmart opened in 1962, and it became known for its Blue Light Specials that drew shoppers to deals; its products were endorsed by everyone from Martha Stewart to Kathy Ireland. "Kmart was part of America," Michael Lisicky, the author of several books on retail, told The Associated Press. "Everybody went to Kmart, whether you liked it or not. They had everything. You had toys. You had sporting goods. You had candy. You had stationery. It was something for everybody. This was almost as much of a social visit as it was a shopping visit. You could spend hours there. And these just dotted the American landscape over the years."
Kmart's decline began several years ago, with sales falling as more people started shopping online. In many areas, Kmart also struggled to compete with two behemoth competitors: Walmart and Target. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2002, and closed 250 stores. Today, both Kmart and Sears are owned by Transformco. Like Kmart, Sears went from having thousands of stores in the U.S. to just a handful.
Mark Cohen, a former CEO of Sears Canada and director of retail studies at Columbia University, told AP that Kmart and Sears were irreparably damaged in recent years by poor management and a bad strategy of trying to compete with Walmart's prices. "It's a study in greed, avarice, and incompetence," he said. "Sears should have never gone away. Kmart was in worse shape, but not fatally so. And now they're both gone."