Once the #1 discount retailer in North America, Kmart dropped to second and then third behind Target and Walmart. In 2008, the Top-250 global retailers was dominated by Walmart. Target was 10th and the combined Sears & Kmart were ranked 20th. Kmart tried and failed when facing the rapid expansion of Walmart on its turf. Walmart opened stores everywhere and K-mart’s answer was to close its own stores instead of being prepared and on the offensive.
The company did launched the Big Kmart concept, but too often it only meant installing a Big Kmart logo and doing minimal renovations to very old stores. It was too little too late. Customers have plenty of choices for their shopping needs and Kmart does not stand out. It tried to be like Walmart with Super Kmart stores and Big Kmart but it did not worked. Kmart should have come up with a bold new improved concept to move the Kmart brand to the 21st century. They also should have slowed down expansion and put their efforts in improving existing stores that were stuck in the 70’s.
In Skowhegan Maine for example, there was a small K-mart store that opened in 1979. Kmart did nothing to upgrade the store's look. Walmart arrived in town and customers left Kmart in droves. Before the news of its closing in February 1996, that store's decor consisted of big oranges paint stripes on the walls, faux-wood counters, orange & beige wood tables and bins, chromed round racks and brown checkout counters, all that with vintage buzzing neon lighting and old dirty ceiling tiles. The outside was the same way with brown brick, foggy dirty windows, and the old turquoise K-mart logo.... not very attractive.
Their reaction was: «Maybe Walmart will open a store soon, let's close our K-mart there, we can't face it» The store has been there for 17 years and the town is still supporting it! Just refresh the store and make it modern before Walmart's arrival and show the customers that you care for them by offering them a renewed shopping experience. Too bad, but the story ends with yet another Kmart closing and Walmart thriving. In 1992, there were nearly 2,300 Kmart stores, twenty years later only 1,300 remained. In the meantime, Walmart, Target and Kohl's kept expanding and renovating stores.
Kmart Corporation started in 1899 when Sebastian S. Kresge opened a small five-and-dime store in downtown Detroit. Shoppers were attracted to the low prices, so it was quick success. By 1912, Kresge incorporated in Delaware and expanded to 85 stores with more than $10 million in sales. In 1916, it reincorporated in Michigan (where the headquarters are still located.) During the mid-1930's, supermarket chains began to offer Americans self-service. Kresge then opened a store in the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, the country's first suburban shopping center. Shortly after, he launched newspaper advertisements. Print ads still dominate promotions.
The first Kmart discount department store opened in Garden City, Michigan in 1962. In that year,corporate sales were $483 million. Sales topped $1 billion in 1966. S.S. Kresge Co. changed their name to Kmart Corporation in 1977 when Kmart performed almost 95% of company sales.
Between 1984 and 1992, Kmart made many acquisitions, and perhaps stretched too far. During the mid-1990's, Kmart began to refocus on the core businesses and sold or divested its equity interest in many of its newly acquired operations. 1990 brought a new logo for a new Kmart. The first Super Kmart opened in 1991. Kmart Corporation now operates stores under the names of Kmart, Big Kmart and Super Kmart.
Kmart filled for Chapter 11 and closed 284 stores in 2002, including only one in New Hampshire, in Manchester. In 2003, they closed more than 300 other stores in January in a plan to emerge from chapter 11 more quickly.
Kmart Holdings Corporation merged with Sears, Roebuck & Co. in 2004. The new company is named Sears Holdings Corp. and is based in Hoffman Estates, Michigan where Sears was based. Kmart maintained a headquarters office in Troy, Michigan. Sears Holdings operates Sears and Kmart and introduced the Sears Essential format. These stores are Kmart stores re-opened as Sears Essentials. They are selling brands of both chains under one roof. The company also operated a larger version called Sears Grand. Early in 2006, the company dropped the "Essential" format and planned to rename the stores Sears Grand even if they were smaller than the original Sears Grand format which is 210,000 sq.ft. Some Sears Essentials even went back to the Kmart brand and/or closed. Martha Stewart Everyday is no longer offered at Kmart.
In recent years, Kmart has somehow managed to stay in business despite an array of fierce competitors and online shopping. The Sears Essential brand has slowly been phased out and some stores even reverted back to Kmart or Sears. Following bad holiday sales in 2011, the company announced it would close 100 to 120 Sears & Kmart stores in 2012. Between 2012 and 2014, the company continued to close more stores, most of the time when store leases expired. In 2014, Sears Holdings announced it would close 77 Sears and Kmart stores by year end. In 2015 and 2016, more Kmart stores have closed and new store closings happen almost every month. Just type "kmart closing" in Google News and you're assured to find several recent articles on a Kmart store closing somewhere.
Early in 2016, Sears Holdings announced the closure of 78 stores including 68 Kmart stores. In December 2016, more store closings were announced for early 2017 and days later in January 2017, it was announced that 78 extra Kmart stores would close as well as 26 Sears stores. On that list of Kmart store closings is the original Kmart store located in Garden City Michigan which had opened in 1962 when Sebastian S. Kresge was still alive. In July 2017, Sears Holdings announces the closing of 43 Sears & Kmart stores. Shortly after, 28 more Kmart stores were added to that list. In November, the closing of 45 more Kmart was announced. In 1993, Kmart operated more than 2,200 stores in the U.S., as of October 2017, the company has roughly 510 locations left. Nearly 1,700 Kmart stores have closed in the past 25 years. Kmart started year 2018 with barely more than 400 stores. In June 2018, the Sears Holdings Q1 results indicated that Kmart only had 365 stores left. Sears also announced at the same time the closing of 15 Kmart and 48 Sears. In August 2018, Sears announced the closing of 33 Sears locations.
NORTHERN NEW ENGLAND SEARS OVERVIEW:
Sears always had a small to moderate presence in northern New England. The stores were mostly located in larger towns with the exceptions of Brunswick Maine. Not much changed for Sears until its acquisition by Kmart to form Sears Holdings. After the merger, Sears rolled out different concepts including Sears Essentials.
In 2005 Sears launched a new concept called Sears Essentials which was a mix of Sears and Kmart in the Kmart store format. Three NH stores were converted to that format with very little success. All three stores were eventually closed. The Sears store base remained the same for years until 2012 when the Lewiston Mall store was closed. Presque Isle followed in 2014. Augusta's Sears location closed in 2017 marking the 3rd Maine closing.
2018 proved to be a tough year for Sears. The company went ahead with many rounds of closures for Sears and Kmart stores. The Bangor Mall store was closed. Oddly enough, the Sears Auto Center remained open. Then in the fall the company announced the closing of Sears stores in Manchester and Salem, two of New Hampshire densely populated areas. This move is proving once again that Sears is simply giving up. The company filed for bankruptcy in October and announced the closing of 142 stores, including Newington's Sears at the Fox Run Mall.
SEARS CANADA OVERVIEW:
Sears opened stores in Canada in 1949. The company closed its last Kresge stores in 1994. Over the years Kmart-Canada grew and at its peak operated 127 Kmart stores. Kmart-Canada was the 3rd largest discounter in Canada behind Zellers and Woolco. The company stopped expanding and renovating stores and remained a distant 3rd in the market. Walmart acquired Woolco to enter the Canadian market in 1994. Kmart Canada did little to face their US rival.
CURRENT ME/NH/VT LOCATIONS:
NEW HAMPSHIRE (2)
FORMER SEARS LOCATIONS:
** : Kmart store converted to the Sears Essentials format that has later closed
(year) : Year of the store closure.
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