Kmart is a discount store located in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand; in the latter two countries, it's a low, low, low
-end discount store licensing the name.
The first Kmart (or K-Mart, as it was then known) opened in Garden City, Michigan in 1962. The chain eventually reached a peak of 2,000 stores by 2000, coinciding with their newly-renovated "Big K" stores (which was around the same time they stopped upgrading their equipment — seriously, it's like stepping into 1993). Unfortunately, Kmart has fallen to a rather distant third place in the discounter race, namely due to being behind on remodeling, poor location build-out, deranged leadershipnote
, and general incompetence. It also saw the loss of its Canadian locations in 1998 to rival Zellers (which itself will be sold to Kmart rival Target in 2013, with some already sold to Walmart
Today, of course, Kmart is still going (but going nowhere), with around 1,200 stores and maybe a dozen Kmart Super Centers. In 2005, it merged with Sears and now carries Sears' Craftsman and Kenmore brands, although not power tools or heavy appliances at most locations. Some of the stores are merely maintained for the real estate between them (the impetus for the Sears merger) and close when inevitably the land price becomes higher than maintaining a store there; for instance, the Kmart near Green Bay, Wisconsin's Lambeau Field happily closed when the Packers offered a mint to the company for the land.
Kmart has seen a bit of resurgence with its "Shop Your Way Rewards" program, in which membership is free and members receive points on every purchase made good for future purchases. Those who sign up for e-mail receive a number of pretty big discount offers, as well as the chance to enter contests for more points. They also have the option of dispensing with a paper receipt and instead having it all e-mailed.
Kmart used to own several other chains: a supercenter called American Farenote
; hardware superstore Builders Squarenote
; bookstore chains Borders and Waldenbooksnote
; office supply chain OfficeMaxnote
; Pace Warehousenote
; Payless Drugsnote
; and Sports Authoritynote
References to Kmart in media include...
- An old Calvin and Hobbes comic strip has Calvin's dad telling him he was a Blue Light Special from Kmart (cheaper than Sears, ironically from the same company nowadays).
- Rain Man: "Kmart sucks."
- The Book of Eli reveals that Eli once worked in a Kmart.
- Somewhere in It, Kmart is mentioned.
- In Army of Darkness, S-Mart is a parody of K-Mart.
- MAD once had a feature on names turned into acronyms. KMart, according to them, stood for Keeping Middle America Really Tacky. It featured a customer buying a matching shoes/belt/watchband set and another one buying a fake jewel encrusted toilet seat.
- In the original airing of the Family Guy episode "Brian in Love", Brian accidentally urinates while at the supermarket, prompting Peter to ask him "Where do you think you are? Kmart?" (Later airings changed it to Payless).