BAXTER -- Attention Kmart shoppers.
The discount store has changed dramatically after a 10-week renovation to the chain store's Big Kmart version. The renovation means increased lighting for a brighter appearance, wider store aisles and a lot of information via signs.
There are price signs and aisle markers so a hurried and harried shopper can more readily locate merchandise. A pantry section expanded grocery items, and prices are easily visible on sales racks, said Kevin Johnson, Kmart store manager in Baxter.
Big Kmart stores average between 84,000 to 120,000 square feet and typically employ about 120. Kmart opened its first Big K in Chicago in 1997.
Store manager Kevin Johnson (right) led a tour through the revamped Big Kmart in Baxter after the store's ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 30. More aisle space, better signs and a lighter interior were some of the improvements.
Johnson said there was a lot of room for improvement, especially in the signs and space. "If you ever shopped our stores you know how tight our aisles were," he said.
Architects looked at ways to improve the shopping experience and revamped counter styles and displays. The children's clothing area is now next to the ladies' department. The fitting rooms were also enlarged and increased in number. The electronics section was expanded.
Johnson said the Baxter store benefited from earlier waves of store redesigns that did not have to increase a store's square feet as much as improve the way space was utilized.
Kmart Corporation stated the store's new appearance represents more than shopping convenience and is a $500,000 investment in the area economy.
Kmart is counting on increased sales from each shopping visit. The company stated Big Kmart sales increases are 10 percent or better in the first year of the new prototype makeover with sales continuing to grow in the second and third years.
The idea of the redesign is to increase sales by increasing how often a customer visits the store. The new store format emphasizes areas that are considered the most shopped for by busy consumers -- food, household supplies, health and beauty care, over-the-counter drugs, children's apparel, and home fashions. The store's American Fare products offer items under Kmart's private label. Other labels are exclusive to Kmart, such as Kathy Ireland, Jaclyn Smith, Martha Stewart and Thom McAn brands.
During a recent dedication ceremony, Johnson thanked employees for their contributions and told them this was a new beginning. Employees also picked two area charities and made donations of $250 each to the Alex and Brandon Safety Center and the Drug Awareness Resistance Education program in Brainerd.
In 1999, 588 stores were converted to Big Kmart. During the first half of 2000, the plan was to update 150 smaller stores to a "best of Big Kmart" prototype, the company announced.
Accelerated store growth is planned for 2001 and 2002.
Corporation plans for the year ahead include opening 20 to 25 new Big Kmarts, expanding another 12 to 15 existing stores and add five new Super Kmarts, which have expanded grocery sections, including baked goods, meat counters, seafood and produce. Super Kmarts are larger at 140,000 to 190,000 square feet with nearly 350 employees.
In 2001, the corporation plans to add 30 Big Kmarts, expand another 11 stores and open 20 new Super Kmarts. The following year, the corporation expects to add 20 more Big Kmarts, expand 20 locations and have 50 new Super Kmart openings.
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