Kohl’s Opening 65 Stores in 30 States


On October 5, 2006, Kohl’s Department Stores embarked on the largest grand opening in its history, opening 65 stores in 30 states. 

At an analysts’ convention in Tampa, they also revealed future plans for expansion.  Currently, Kohls has about 820 stores in 45 states; however, they plan to open 115 stores next year, and about 270 more between 2007 and 2010.  Their same-store sales were up 16.3 percent from the same time in 2005, and September 2006 total sales rose 26.1 percent. 

Kohl's Department Store prototypeThe linear growth model of Kohl’s reads more like a log function than anything else.  Coming from suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Kohl’s has grown by leaps and bounds to be as successful as it is today.  But why?  I offer up a few suggestions.  The first is that Kohl’s was opportunistic and came up at the right place in the right time.  Kohl’s Department Stores began in 1962 under the helm of Max Kohl, a grocer in the Milwaukee area since 1946 who operated Kohl’s food stores.  In 1972, the British-American Tobacco Company (BATUS) purchased both Kohl’s grocery and department stores, yet the Kohl family stayed on to administrate the stores until 1979 when they left altogether.  Interestingly, Max Kohl’s son Herb is now the senior United States Senator from Wisconsin. 

Through the 1970s and early 1980s, Kohl’s grocery and food stores operated in tandem and were often physically adjacent in shopping centers throughout southeastern Wisconsin.  At many locations, the stores also shared an entrance and customers could choose whether they wanted groceries or a department store by turning left or right once inside.  The stores were, however, physically separated by a barrier and only the front entrance atrium was common to both.   

In 1983, the grocery store division of Kohl’s was sold to A&P, who continued to operate and even open new locations until they all closed in 2003.  BATUS continued to operate Kohl’s department stores until 1986, when they were sold to a group of independent investors who continues to operate the stores today. 

Kohl's 2-level store in Hayward, CAExpansion came slow for Kohl’s at first, but once it began it rose exponentially.  Until the mid 1980s there were less than 40 stores in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.  Also in the mid-1980s, Kohl’s took over a struggling similar chain called Main Street Stores in the Chicagoland area, and they opened their store in my hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin in 1986, in a former Montgomery Ward location in the Janesville Mall. 

Kohl's typical sign pylonSince the 80s, Kohl’s has expanded where other chains have failed, pairing its excellent customer service reputation with high quality, often name brand merchandise at discounted prices.  Kohl’s made a niche market for itself in between discounters such as Target, Wal-Mart, and K-Mart, and full-line department stores like Macy’s, Dillard’s, and JCPenney.  As Kohl’s focuses heavily on softline merchandise and very little on electronics (aside from small appliances and gadgets, Kohl’s abandoned its full electronics department in 1994) it is very popular with women.  They’ve used other chain failures such as Clover, Ames, Caldor, and Bradlees in the northeast to swoop in and open stores there to expand their concept over the past 9 years.  If Kohl’s continues on their track to 1,200 stores by 2010 they will be one of the most successful chains in history.

Kohls in Framingham, MA Kohl's Kohl's


Hello, Macy’s!

Macy's way to shopGoodbye, Marshall Field’s.  Goodbye, Famous-Barr.  Goodbye, The Jones Store.  Goodbye, Robinsons-May.  Goodbye, Meier & Frank.  Goodbye, Foley’s.  Goodbye, Strawbridges.  Goodbye, Kaufmann’s.  Goodbye, L.S. Ayres.  Goodbye, Filene’s.  Last but certainly not least, goodbye, Hecht’s.  You all no longer exist and are all now Macy’s

Foley'sOn Saturday of this past weekend, September 9, 2006, all of those brands officially became Macy’s, along with countless others which have been swallowed up and converted to the Macy’s nameplate over the years in order to form this national brand.

While many are in uproar and upset about *their* local store disappearing and while no single store to my knowledge has ever converted this many brands at once, this is not a new phenomenon.  

I just read the story of Macy’s and, like the history of many chains, it’s an interesting read full of ups and downs, brutal takeover attempts, a devastating shipwreck in icy waters on the high seas of the North Atlantic, and many different department store chains along the way.  Since Macy’s currently operates in 45 states (you in Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, and Nebraska are going to start feeling left out), odds are you have a Macy’s near you.  And, since Macy’s just added 330 stores this last weekend to make 850 stores in total, chances are that although you might have heard of Macy’s, you may have never actually been to one.  (Who am I kidding, the people who read this are probably well aware…) anyway, here we go.

Famous BarrMacy’s was founded by Rowland Hussey Macy in Haverhill, Massachusetts.  Quickly, Macy moved his company to various locations in New York, lasting almost 40 years on the corner of 18th and Broadway. 

In 1896, Macy’s was acquired by Isidor Straus (who later died aboard the RMS Titanic) and his brother Nathan.  They moved Macy’s into its current digs on the corner of 34th and Broadway.  The store got bigger and bigger and eventually enveloped nearly the entire block.  However, one Brownstone house right on the corner of 34th and Broadway held out and reportedly charges Macy’s exorbitant rent to this day.  You’re all familiar with the house, you just don’t know it.  It’s covered by a giant red bag which reads “The world’s largest store” – and it is the world’s largest store at over 2 million square feet of selling space.  That’s larger than over 90% of the shopping centers in the country.

Marshall Field'sThroughout the next few decades, Macy’s was in the business of expansion.  They opened satellite locations in Kansas City, San Francisco, Toledo, Atlanta, and other cities.  They acquired many smaller chains such as New Jersey based Bamberger’s in 1929.  But, in the 1980s, Macy’s bit off more than it could chew and was in dire financial straits.  In 1985, it divested itself of its midwest locations in Kansas City and Toledo, exiting the region for nearly 2 decades save for a lone store at the Mall of America in Minnesota which opened in 1992.  In 1986, Macy’s ended the long-term operation of a name it owned in New Jersey and the mid-Atlantic states by flipping the Bamberger’s nameplate to Macy’s.

Filene'sAlso in 1986, a takeover battle of epic proportions ensued, as Macy’s CEO Edward Finkelstein became engaged in a vicious takeover battle with a Canadian company over the much coveted Federated Department Store chain.  This is where the story gets interesting again (and maybe a little confusing) but we’ll iron out all the details.  Finkelstein lost the hostile takeover bid in 1986; however, as a result, he got some of Federated’s booty, California’s Bullocks and I. Magnin chains. 

In the early 1990s, there was trouble in paradise as the Canadian company which acquired Federated declared bankruptcy.  1992 also saw trouble for Hecht'sMacy’s which declared bankruptcy of its own right.  In 1994, it seems as though these two bankrupt entities would be a match made in heaven and Federated acquired Macy’s.  Finally Macy’s and Federated were one.   Immediately following the merger, Federated chose to shutter the entire upscale I. Magnin chain in California, converting many to the Macy’s or Bullock’s nameplate.  Federated also chose to fold the Abraham and Straus nameplate in the New York area and the Jordan Marsh nameplate in the Boston area into Macy’s in 1995 and 1996, respectively.  Feeling hungry, Federated marched on, attempting and eventually failing an acquisition of the bankrupt Wanamaker/Woodward & Lothrop chains in the mid-Atlantic region.  Instead, it acquired the Broadway/Emporium/Weinstock chain of California and folded those chains as well as the Bullock’s locations they already had into the Macy’s nameplate.

Macy's Herald Square in New YorkFast forward to 2001.  Federated dissolved its Stern’s nameplate and many of the stores became Macy’s.  Also in 2001 the Liberty House chain of Hawaii and Guam were acquired by Federated and flipped to the Macy’s nameplate.

2003 saw one of the biggest leaps forward for Federated-Macy’s, as they chose to rebrand its stores in the Pacific Northwest (Bon-Marche), Memphis area (Goldsmith’s), Florida (Burdines), and the Ohio Valley region of IN/OH/PA/KY/WV (Lazarus) to Macy’s.  The branding was gradual, with each store given a hyphenated “-Macy’s” suffix for 2 years from 2003, culminating with just Macy’s in March of 2005, effectively eliminating those brands forever.

Now we’re almost up to date to the biggest merger in Federated-Macy’s history, with May Company in 2005.  This merger happened in February Former May Company banner2005, effectively creating the second largest department store chain behind Sears with over $30 billion in annual sales.  (For those still paying attention, May Company was the parent at the time of all the stores which just converted to Macy’s last weekend.)  In July 2005 the death knell was raised against the stores of the May Company chain as Federated announced that based on the previous successes they had converting regional nameplates to the Macy’s name (see previous paragraph), all May chains would be converted to Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s.  Federated announced they wanted to create a national department store brand in Macy’s and they finally had the stores to do so, so they began store conversions on the 10 May brands during the Summer of 2006.  First, Macy’s gift cards started appearing, then some of their banners and advertisements and finally, the signs came down and big red stars went up everywhere.  Last Saturday, September 9, was to be the official full conversion.

Meier and FrankAs I alluded to earlier in the post, many are upset at this drastic change in retailing.  In fact, over 50,000 people have signed a petition to keep Marshall Field’s, and there are also T-Shirts for the cause.  But as you can see, department stores are a changing animal, getting swallowed up or vice versa and it’s really all in flux.  My two cents?  I feel that Macy’s has its work cut out for it.  A tough road ahead, but majorly unprecedented successes if they can pull it off properly.  I personally value variety in the marketplace and feel that it’s not only cool to go to a distant city and see different stores, but it probably bears upon the quality of service, variety, and prices.  On one hand, people are loyal to stores which have heritage in their area.  It’s purely topophilic, but what better marketing campaign does a store need to have than being tied to a particular place?  On the other hand, the logistics of having a unified national brand is certainly more cost-effective and easier to manage.  

Woman holding a sign reading There have already been problems with the merger.  In Chicago’s flagship Macy’s on State Street, a group of backlit signs improperly labelled the streets and avenues which bound the block where the store sits.  Locals, who are still reeling from the loss of their Marshall Fields, were quick to point out the snafu and how they feel Macy’s is spread too thin to care about them as customers.  I went to Woodfield Mall in Chicago and saw several people wearing T-shirts they purchased on ebay which indignantly stated “Chicago shops at Marshall Fields NOT Macy’s” – What’s in the future for these stores?  Time will tell, I suppose.   

Robinsons-May Strawbridge & Clothier L.S. Ayres


Downtown to Become Lifestyle Center

LL Bean Store in Freeport, Maine

According to GlobeSt.com, the flagship L.L. Bean Store–which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is the epitome of the outdoor lifestyle brand–is going to be redeveloped as a $40 million dollar, 113,000 square-foot lifestyle center, anchored by a revamped L.L. Bean store.

Of course, the original L.L. Bean store is actually located right in the heart of scenic Freeport, Maine, a picturesque coastal town just north of Portland, and it has been the town’s focal point since at least 1917. The store attracts many tourists, and its presence has caused the downtown to fill with outlet stores for many of the most popular mall merchants, including Gap, Banana Republic, and Abercrombie & Fitch. In other words, L.L. Bean is sort of an anchor store of an actual, real life, classic New England town center, the kind of place that lifestyle centers try to emulate. And of course, we’ll now have an actual lifestyle center moving into the very place it’s trying to mimic! Try and wrap your head around that one!

Snark aside, the fact that L.L. Bean is shaking up its mix is worth mentioning. Long a major outdoor lifestyle brand (alongside Cabela’s, Orvis, Bass Pro Shops, and Land’s End in one corner, and Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sports Authority, and others in another), L.L. Bean has been in the process of stepping up their efforts to compete against expanding outdoor brands, especially Bass Pro Shops. Just last week, they began their new roll-out of stores outside of Maine with the opening of a two-level store in the Wayside Commons lifestyle center in Burlington, Massachusetts, and they plan a string of new stores in the new future. What’s in store for these, as compared to the failed concept they rolled out in 2000? Essentially, “mini-me” versions of their gargantuan Freeport flagship, complete with nearly every item currently featured in their catalog. L.L. Bean will likely be attempting to introduce themselves nationally as the more upmarket, granola cousin to stores like Bass Pro Shops, where the emphasis is less on guns and more on butter (and kayaks). Interestingly, L.L. Bean told The Boston Globe last week that they plan to avoid malls and cling to the lifestyle format, relaying an anecdote that customers (understandably) don’t like lugging kayaks through malls. Still, it seems to me that most who shop at the ‘ol Bean are moneyed, yuppie types buying more clothing and housewares–they sell deliciously tasteful dinnerware–than true outdoor gear, though I suppose the lifestyle center format takes dead aim on this particular demographic regardless of what they’re really buying. The canoes hanging from the ceiling may merely be for effect, but I suppose they achieve their purpose.

It’ll be interesting to see if the market can support so many similar competitors. I secretly suspect I’m too young, too poor, and too indoorsy to fall into L.L. Bean’s real target demographic but as a lifelong Yankee, I wish them luck.

Retail Relic: Benny’s Home & Auto Stores

Benny's sign in Raynham, Massachusetts

While the name will be unfamiliar to anyone from outside Rhode Island, Southeastern Massachusetts, or Eastern Connecticut, Benny’s Home & Auto Stores–who continue to operate today–are a true living retail relic. Just look at this vintage-looking store! Nearly all of the Benny’s stores, even the ones of more recent vintage, seem to look like this. As an added bonus, check out their website, which sports some considerable 1996 HTML chic. These guys take retro retail fashion seriously. Oops, they actually built a new website!

Founded in 1924, Benny’s is a 30-store chain with stores in 3 states. Their format is decidedly unusual: they essentially round up the hardlines department of a standard Wal-Mart, and cut nearly all of the softlines. It’s a place where you can buy tools, sporting goods, automotive, toys, home decor, and lawn and garden, but you won’t find any clothing. Their stores vary in size, ranging from 20,000 or 30,000 square feet at the low end and up to about 60,000 or so square feet at the high end, and are located in shopping centers, standalone locations, and even downtowns. They’re the rare survivor from the 5-and-dime era who has managed to carve out a niche and outlast their bigger, better monied New England cousins like Ames, Bradlees, Rich’s, or Caldor.

I haven’t shopped at Benny’s in many years since I moved away from the area, but that the chain has become sort of a local treasure is no surprise. Rhode Island is a state that values its local retail, but after losing nearly all of the big names from Peerless to The Outlet to to Apex to Ann & Hope, Benny’s is the last major player standing. Benny’s is so adored as a survivor that you can buy a collectible model of an old, downtown-style store!

Benny's Home and Auto Store in Raynham, Massachusetts

The location pictured is located on US44 on the Raynham/Taunton town line in Massachusetts, but they all look very similar to this one. Even stores of a more recent vintage have been given some of the classic treatment, so nearly all of their locations offer a trip down the memory lane of discount department store retail. The ad included below is their current (Aug 2006) Providence Journal advertising flyer, and I’ve included it to give an idea of the types of products Benny’s sells.

Benny's Flier from August 2006

Prangeway: Here is the Benny’s location in Wakefield Westerly, Rhode Island, in August 2001.

Bennys in Wakefield, RI

Wal-Mart Profits Drop for First Time in Decade

I’m a bit slow in addressing the big retail story of the past week, which is that Wal-Mart has posted their first drop in quarterly profits since 1996. This wouldn’t be massive news if it was a chain smaller than Wal-Mart (after all, we aren’t talking about a loss, just a drop in profits). But because Wal-Mart is its own microeconomy and an indicator of the economic health of many Americans, it merits attention.

Wal-Mart blames the loss on some disastrous stores in Germany and South Korea that have been divested, and this may be responsible for much of the problem. But with the current high price of gas, it seems like Wal-Mart’s strategy of targeting working class, rural consumers may be hurting them. Because city-dwellers and suburbanites travel relatively short distances to shop, they tend not to think much of the cost of gas when planning shopping trips. For suburbanites, today’s high gas prices are an inconvenience less than a hardship. But Wal-Mart’s core customer base, who may be traveling 50 miles or more to a Wal-Mart store, may find that the economics of Wal-Mart’s savings may not justify the $3/gallon price tag for gas. In effect, people may well be returning to their local Main Streets in the most rural areas.

Similarly, Wal-Mart’s endless pursuit of the cheap means that they’ve built a customer base that is heavily loaded with many of the most vulnerable consumers, people who struggle to make ends meet and who are being squeezed dangerously by the costs of gasoline, electricity, housing, and more factors that have risen dramatically in the last few years. Because there are other chains who cater more heavily to the mid-range consumer–especially Target, Kohl’s, Sears, and JCPenney–these companies are finding comparatively healthy sales while Wal-Mart’s are struggling to keep up.

In essence, Wal-Mart tied their entire business model to economics, and as such, economic shifts hurt them more than they do their competitors. Increases in costs of most necessities suggest that we may be in an inflationary period, yet the price of most consumer goods has remained relatively steady–largely because of Wal-Mart. But Wal-Mart may be stuck, unable to raise prices for fear of losing customers yet at the same time squeezing themselves out of their already thin margins on many products, especially food. Unlike Target, they don’t try and foster loyalty through improved aesthetics of stores and products, and unlike their grocery competitors, they don’t even attempt to achieve a measure of quality. As a result, all that Wal-Mart offers is the Price Rollback, and historically stores with a value proposition as the price leader have proven to be vulnerable (and this has prevented Wal-Mart from expanding into more expensive American markets like California or the Northeast already)… or at least that’s my take. There are many other possible reasons for this (such as overexpansion or bad publicity), and it may not even be indicative of a larger trend. Feel free to start a dialogue in the comments: What do you think is next for Wal-Mart?

Retail Relic: Ames Department Stores


Ames Logo

To those of us who grew up in the Northeast, Ames was Wal-Mart before there was such a thing. Ames was many things, but they weren’t glamorous: their stores were big emporiums with long rows of flourescent lights that sold plastic jelly shoes, cheap plastic bins for storing random stuff, and fiberboard furniture. But unlike Target, Wal-Mart, or even veritable old names like Caldor and Bradlees, Ames was ubiquitous. Every decent-sized town in New England had an Ames.

Ames’ history is a somewhat long and sad tale of a regional discounter that tried to stand up to Wal-Mart and other national chains. Ames began in 1958 out of a warehouse in Southbridge, Massachusetts as a store that attempted to bring department store goods to rural areas affordably. In their early days and even through the 1980s, Ames was located primarily in rural northeastern towns. Unfortunately Ames’ overzealousness was their undoing. A disastrous acquisition of faltering giant Zayre in 1988 caused Ames to go bankrupt and close many of their stores, and they spent much of the 1990s regaining their footing. By the late 1990s, Ames was finally again on solid ground. Unfortunately, Ames was also keenly aware of the march of strong competitors like Wal-Mart and Target and how many of their peers, notably Caldor and Bradlees but also Ann & Hope and Apex, were dying off quickly. Instead of making many much-needed re-investments into their aging stores, Ames acquired Hill’s department stores, giving them 467 stores stretching from Maine to Chicago. It was a risky, defensive decision that was an 11th hour attempt to build the kind of volume to fight Wal-Mart. Unfortunately Ames had not learned from their inability to absorb Zayre more than a decade earlier, and this second disastrous acquisition would sink the chain. Ames filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in August 2001 and announced they would be going out of business forever exactly a year later, in August 2002.

At the time of their death, Ames was the fourth largest discount department store chain in the United States. Because many of their stores were in rural areas or lower-tier plazas or strips–and because their stores varied wildly in size or quality–many of them remain vacant today. The occasion for this post is the return of the excellent Ames Fan Club Website, created and maintained by Chris Fontaine, a native of Dudley, Mass., not far from Ames’ birthplace of Southbridge. Fontaine’s ambitious mission is to try and visit every former Ames site and document it in photographs to create a comprehensive historical archive of the defunct retailer. There’s also a wealth of great other stuff, including some hilarious employee training videos (my favorite is a teambuilding video produced by the Glenmont, NY store wherein a young employee treats her coworkers to a rendition of “Amazing Ames” sung to the tune of “Amazing Grace”) and photos of the chain’s planogram building near their former headquarters in Rocky Hill, Connecticut. Due to server issues, the Ames Fan Club had been offline for several months, since before Labelscar even launched. Since we at Labelscar (or me, at least) are big fans of the fallen discounter, and we’re glad to see that the Ames Fan Club is back.

I’ve included some uncredited, undated (2001-2002ish?) photos of the former Ames store in my hometown of Middletown, Rhode Island. The building has since been razed, and is now home of a Home Depot store that’s set further back on the lot. The original site of the Ames store (which is very visibly one of the stores acquired from Zayre) is now the parking lot for the current Home Depot.

Former Ames in Middletown, Rhode Island Former Ames in Middletown, Rhode Island

PREIT Purchases Former Strawbridge’s Flagship Store

The Gallery at Market East in Philadelphia, with the older Strawbridge's store at right

One of the more prominent retail sites vacated due to the Federated/May merger has been snatched up by PREIT (The Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust). According to GlobeSt.com, the developer has signed a purchase agreement for floors one through six of the former Strawbridge’s anchor store at Eighth and Market Streets in center city Philadelphia.

Strawbridge's LogoThe historic Strawbridge’s store, which opened in 1931, is attached to the aging, 1,100,000 square foot Gallery at Market East shopping mall. The center–which, somewhat surprisingly, I haven’t been able to visit due to some bouts of bad luck–has reportedly under-performed for some time and failed to serve as the center of the city’s downtown retail district, which is what it was designed to be. In addition to the departed Strawbridge’s, JCPenney and Gimbel’s long ago vacated and now the mall counts Kmart, Pay/Half, and Burlington Coat Factory amongst it’s relatively indistinguished roster of tenants. The top floor of the four-level mall is mostly vacant.

One design feature that stands out about the Gallery at Market East is that much of the mall is sliced in half by the Kmart store, so on certain levels it’s necessary to walk through the Kmart itself to proceed straight through the length of the mall. The mall also has one level below street level, continuing the full length of the mall, while the third level of the mall also continues straight through the mall, leaving the street level sandwiched inbetween. The street level is severed at each cross street, so to access its stores its necessary to come from above or below. Essentially, depending on the floor of the mall, the structure flies over, tunnels under, or dead-ends completely at the crossing blocks. If I’ve confused you, check out PREIT’s detailed leasing plan (which is a PDF). I haven’t seen the Gallery, but am dying to.

Hopefully I’ll make it down in time to see the Gallery, because it seems that PREIT’s motivation for buying the Strawbridge’s store is to prepare for a much needed reset at the entire Gallery at Market East Shopping Mall. Joseph Coradino, president of PREIT Services, tells GlobeSt.com that the Gallery at Market East is “Defensive. It defends itself by turning its back on the street. We want to open it to the street, with cafes and retail that will capture the customers in that area.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to become outdoor (the multi-level nature of the mall probably means that wouldn’t make much sense at all) but it does seem to indicate a drastic and overdue repositioning of the mall is in place. If done correctly, it could give Philadelphia the kind of downtown retail destination that helped kick start urban revitalization efforts in Boston or Providence. Work is expected to begin in either 2007 or 2008.

Federated Sells Lord and Taylor for $1.2bil


Federated Department Stores played hot potato with the Lord and Taylor brand earlier today, selling it off almost immediately after acquiring it from May Company

Federated Department Stores reported today that it would sell its Lord and Taylor division for $1.2 billion in cash.  The Wall Street Journal had previously reported that the probable buyer was a partnership between Apollo and NRDC Real Estate Advisors.  The buyer already owns the Linens ‘n Things chain as well as 14 million square feet of retail space across the country.  

Lord and Taylor was recently acquired by Federated in a merger with May Company.  L&T currently has 49 stores, mostly in upscale malls in larger cities in the eastern half of the country.   

Now that Federated has divested itself of the Lord and Taylor brand, it can be speculated that they will focus entirely upon their burgeoning Macy’s division.  Later this year, Federated plans to finalize the May stores acquisition, which will dissolve eleven regional department store chains (Robinsons-May, The Jones Store Company, Famous-Barr, Marshall Fields, LS Ayres, Filenes, Kaufmann’s, Hecht’s, Foley’s, Strawbridges, Meier and Frank) into the Macy’s name.  After this, Macy’s will indeed be a nationwide chain as ubiquitous to malls as Sears and JCPenney.  They will have stores from Hawaii to North Dakota to Florida.  Because Lord and Taylor is an upscale brand, it is worthy of salvage from conversion to the Macy’s name.  Also, converting the L&T stores would be redundant as many share anchor space in malls that will already have a Macy’s after the merger anyway.  In addition, L&T is comparable to Bloomingdales, an upscale department store brand that Federated already owns. 

Many wondered what might ultimately become of the L&T brand.  It seems that, for now, it will be saved.  As for the other eleven brands acquired by Macy’s in the May merger, you can kiss those goodbye; they’ll become Macy’s within a few months.  So, if you haven’t already, you’ll soon get your Way to Shop….whatever that actually means. 

Retail Relic: Old School Kmarts

Old Kmart store in South Burlington, Vermont

Some stores are slow when it comes to standardization of their logos or decor, but perhaps none have been more notorious for this than Kmart. Even after their moderately successful rebranding campaign that began in the early 1990s, many of the chain’s stores held onto the older vintage logo scheme, and many (most?) never got interior facelifts.

Even after the merger with Sears, when the company began experimenting with Sears/Kmart hybrid stores (Sears Essentials) many of the interior elements had been left untouched. Judging by how much more successful Sears Grand was, and the fact that Sears Essentials is already being retired, I think that we can guess what that taught us.

Unlike many of the old retail chains that we’re so fond of (Caldor, Bradlees, Venture, Prangeway, and even Ames), Kmart’s stores have rarely been terribly pleasant. When they’ve tried, they’ve built nice spaces, but most of the time they haven’t.

When I took a road trip up to Vermont a few weeks ago, I found the Kmart above with its old logo intact on the city’s south side strip (along US-7). It’s one of the first of its kind that I’ve seen in years, so I figured I should swing in and snap a few pictures. I also have these other photos of old Kmarts in Sacramento and Iowa City that have been sitting on my hard drive for awhile. I have no idea who took them or where they came from, so if they’re yours and you want credit then please let me know.

Old Kmart store in South Burlington, Vermont Kmart plaza in South Burlington, VT Old Kmart in South Burlington, VT

This photo of unknown origin is of a Kmart in Sacramento, CA Unknown photo of Kmart in Iowa Falls, IA