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Report: Kmart turns on blue light again
Attention Kmart shoppers: Retailer reported to revive marketing symbol without using actual light.
January 27, 2005: 7:26 AM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Attention Kmart shoppers: The retailer plans to bring back its signature marketing icon, the blue-light special, without actually using the flashing blue light or the in-store loud speaker announcements, according to a published report.

The Detroit News reported that Troy, Mich.-based Kmart has quietly rolled out signs with the blue-light logos to advertise in-store clearance merchandise.

For much of its history, Kmart was best known for using flashing blue lights and announcements that began, "Attention Kmart shoppers" to hype the short sales of clearance merchandise. The company said the idea was first tried in 1965 at the suggestion of an assistant store manager and quickly spread companywide.

But the blue light eventually became associated with cheap and unattractive merchandise and the light and the announcement became the fodder of jokes at the company's expense. Meanwhile Kmart lost sales to fast growing rivals such as Wal-Mart Stores, whose advertising stressed low prices all the time on all items.

Kmart dropped the blue light in 1991, but never completely moved away from it. When it started an online sales Web site in December 1999, it christened it BlueLight.com.

The chain even tried to revive the use of the blue light in 2001, saying at that time that marketing research showed 62 percent of those polled recognize the blue light special, and of those who knew it, 93 percent have a positive view of it.

But the revival was generally deemed a failure, and Kmart dropped it a second time after filing for bankruptcy court protection in 2002.

The Detroit News reported that the blue light logos on in-store sales signs won't be a permanent part of the retailer's strategy. The signs were posted mid-month, but there aren't any in stores now, according to Kmart spokesman Stephen Pagnani.

"We may once in a while use it since it is something we know our customers recognize," Pagnani told the paper "But there is no formal plan right now."

Many of the retailing experts contacted by the paper questioned how effective a tool the blue light symbol is in today's market.

"It's an idea whose time has come and gone," said Jack Trout, president of brand consultants Trout & Partners in Old Greenwich, Conn. "Wal-Mart's 'Everyday prices' trump blue-light specials. Why they want to try this one again, I have no idea. What Kmart is saying is that we have a few things on sale and Wal-Mart is saying we have a lot of things on sale."  Top of page

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