Losing an old friend

The announcement that Kahului’s Kmart will close soon came as a shock to us when we heard it Tuesday. Yes, we knew their parent company was having a difficult time and there have been a couple of series of store closings.

But, for the 47 years we have labored in the newspaper business, Kmart has been a mainstay. Its history traces back to the S.S. Kresge Co. that first opened its doors in the 1800s.

The first Kmart opened in 1962, just eight years before we worked at our first newspaper. But, by 1970, the chain was a giant in the retail business. It was known for using loss leaders in its ads to bring in huge crowds.

Once in the stores, shoppers were treated to “Bluelight Specials” — huge savings announced over loudspeakers that were good for only a short amount of time. A blue, flashing light steered shoppers to the bargain of the moment.

There was an excitement in their stores that others had problems trying to emulate. Salespeople for newspapers would point to Kmart’s aggressive pricing strategies to try to show other advertisers what was necessary for success.

Through the years, of course, major competitors did appear and succeed using many of the tactics Kmart developed. In addition to these brick-and-mortar competitors, Kmart has also had to deal with “e-tailers” — internet operators that have none of the overhead of physical stores across the country.

So, we are very sad to see the Kahului store closing. Kmart has been a very good friend and customer to our business. We hope their parent company finds a successful way to compete in this brave new world.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.