Home Page Hard Sells Gone on Revamped Kmart.com

Kmart Corp. changed the name of its Web site from BlueLight.com to Kmart.com and redesigned its home page to reflect the change, the company said yesterday.

The move is part of an effort to bring the site in line with the bankrupt Troy, MI-based retailer's offline branding efforts.

As a result, the site features Kmart's signature big red “K” where there was once a blue light. It also displays the company tag line “The Stuff of Life,” which debuted in February during Olympic closing ceremonies.

Kmart had gone without a tag line for about a year.

The new site focuses more on building the Kmart brand and less on selling on the home page than BlueLight.com did, Kmart.com spokesman Dave Karraker said.

“What Kmart is doing for the first time is taking all of its communications platforms, including in-store, online and advertising, and making sure it has the same brand message,” he said.

About one-quarter of the top screen of the home page — what many would consider prime selling space — is taken up by a branding-campaign photo of three grade-school-age girls on a beach and the line, “warm sunny days and cool savings should never be wasted.”

“BlueLight.com was more about selling hard on the home page and then hoping people go deeper into the site,” Karraker said. “Here, it's more about informing on the home page and moving people further into the site. [The redesign] utilizes the site as both a sales tool and a marketing tool.”

The redesign also plays up Kmart brands like Martha Stewart Everyday.

The site will debut Joe Boxer apparel in the fall, Karraker said.

Kmart.com gets 2 million to 2.5 million unique visitors per month, according to Karraker. Like Kmart's retail outlets, Kmart.com's primary demographics are women with children, but the online customers average age is 32 to 37, about five years younger than its store customers, he said.

Its BlueLight Unlimited Internet service has 170,000 subscribers who pay $8.95 per month.

The Kmart.com revamp follows a direct mail effort last month in which Kmart sent 10 million “thank you” mailers to people who had shopped using credit cards in one of 1,800 Kmart retail locations during the previous three months.

The mailer was a bit of a head scratcher, though, as its only coupon was from Kodak for film developing. All the other sales in the mailer were available to all customers who visited Kmart stores, not just those who received the mailer.

To promote Kmart.com's relaunch, the site offers 10 percent off purchases of $99 or more, excluding certain items, from June 20 to June 30.

Kmart claims that consumer research it has been conducting since February revealed that its customers “overwhelmingly” preferred the Kmart.com name to BlueLight.com, which was chosen in 1999 to allow the e-commerce site to capitalize on the Kmart brand yet pursue ventures outside those typically associated with Kmart. As was the case with many such ventures at the time, BlueLight.com's plan was ultimately to go public and cash in on the dot-com craze.

In September, Kmart bought back the minority stakes Japan's Softbank Venture Capital and Martha Stewart Living had in BlueLight.com, making it a wholly owned subsidiary of Kmart. The subsidiary name is still BlueLight.com. It has 77 employees, 34 of whom are in San Francisco.

Kmart filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January. Its stock yesterday suffered a big percentage loss, and was down 5 cents late in the day to 81 cents while most of the rest of the retail sector stayed relatively flat.

Earlier this month, the company reported that for its fiscal first quarter of 2002, which ended May 1, it lost $1.45 billion, compared with a net loss of $233 million for the same quarter in 2001. Nearly $1 billion of that was a charge for costs associated with closing 283 stores in May and June.

Net sales for the quarter were $7.64 billion, a decrease of 8.4 percent from $8.34 billion for the same quarter in 2001.

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