Kmart, a beloved retailer that many of us have fond memories of, has a rich history that dates back to 1899. It all started with the S.S. Kresge Company, founded by Sebastian Spurling Kresge. Sebastian began his career working alongside another retail giant in Memphis, Tennessee. After parting ways with his partner, Sebastian became the sole owner of the company and wasted no time in expanding its reach.
Between Chicago and Pittsburgh, Sebastian built several stores, bringing the convenience and joy of shopping to eight different cities. The 1920s to the 1960s marked a steady period of growth for Kresge’s stores. However, it was in 1962 that Kmart made its mark as a pioneer in the retail world.
Thanks to the vision of retail pioneer Harry Cunningham, the first full-sized Kmart opened its doors in Michigan. This marked the retailer’s entry into the large-scale discount market, forever changing the retail landscape. Interestingly, the inspiration for Kmart’s expansion came from Anne and Hope’s store in Rhode Island, which in turn inspired the founders of Walmart.
Kmart quickly became known for its innovative marketing techniques. In 1965, they introduced the famous “Blue light special” to grab shoppers’ attention and promote products on sale. Customers would hear the announcement, “Attention Kmart Shoppers,” blaring over the loudspeakers, signaling that deals were to be found. It was a thrilling experience that made shopping at Kmart even more exciting.
The success of Kmart continued to grow. In 1976, S.S. Kresge made history by opening a whopping 271 stores in just one year, setting a new record in retail expansion. As part of their success, Kmart collaborated with various celebrities like Jaclyn Smith and Martha Stewart, endorsing their products and creating a buzz among consumers.
By 1977, Kmart had become so prominent that nearly 95 percent of S.S. Kresge’s sales were generated by Kmart stores. To reflect this, the company changed its name to Kmart Corporation. This demonstrated the incredible impact that Kmart had on the retail industry and how it became a household name.
The story of Kmart is a testament to the power of innovation, perseverance, and staying true to one’s vision. From its humble beginnings to becoming a retail giant, Kmart has shaped the way we shop and has left an indelible mark on the hearts of millions of customers.
Check out this video for a glimpse into the world of Kmart: