By the 1920, Kresge operated larger stores that offered wider variety of merchandise and prices – precursors of the modern discount store. The first Kmart department store opened in 1962 in garden city, Michigan. A total of 18 Kmart stores opened that year. Kmart Foods, a long forgotten now defunct chain of Kmart supermarket opened in that same decade.
War and financial depressions hit America hard over the next decades but Kresge store were always there to offer families products at prices they could afford. They also offered people what other business 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 price they can afford –and they’ll keep coming back.
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 alter, 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 leader in the growing competitive retail environment that change 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 organizations.
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 million mark. In 1976 SS 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 SS 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 Super center in Medina, Ohio, offering a full service grocery along with general merchandiser 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 towards the front of the store and a new focus was placed on the children’s and house fashions departments. These big changes were signified by anew name for remodeled stores – Big Kmart.
To further expand the reach of the company, in December of 1999, Kmart launched a new internet presence, BlueLight.com. By initially offering free Internet service Blue Light was able to register a record breaking number of users in its first few months. Shoppers now know the e-commerce and information site as www.kmart.com.