Skip to main content

Struggling Kmart Revisits Bluelight Special to Rejuvenate Stores

In an effort to shake things up in stores and hopefully generate much-needed sales, Kmart is giving a nod to yesteryear and bringing back its “Bluelight Special.” Again.

Kmart brought back the Bluelight Special in 2001 just before going bankrupt and has revived it sporadically since to jumpstart demand, but only for limited times.

This time, though, the sales tactic by where the retailer sets off blue sirens to alert store shoppers that an item will be on sale for the next 15 minutes, will be ongoing both in stores and online.

“It’s part of our DNA,” Kmart president Alasdair James, who joined the company last year, told Reuters. “We think there is a real positive buzz coming out of it and we expect to see an increase in sales.”

Kmart’s sales have struggled of late. For the second quarter ended Aug. 1 2015, Sears Holdings, Kmart’s parent company, reported a 7.3% decline in comparable store sales and the previous year’s decline was a similar one. Sears Holdings attributes a portion of the decline to a departure from low-margin products—Kmart’s gross margin for the second quarter improved 80 basis points over the prior year period.

Specials started in Kmart stores Friday, Reuters reported, and will be followed up by an NBC ad during Sunday Night Football to highlight the promotion.

The retailer originally piloted the idea in 1965 to move merchandise and the offer helped fuel Kmart’s rise to largest U.S. discount retailer in the 80s, but the Bluelight Special faded out just as Walmart’s sales started surpassing Kmart’s.

Kmart said the decision to bring back the specials came after research revealed that shoppers fondly recall the deals signaled by the now well-known “Attention Kmart shopper” phrase.

It remains to be seen however, how today’s shopper, flooded with a plethora of discount options, will receive the Bluelight Special. But the goal, Kmart told Reuters, is to bring fun back to the shopping experience.

“We are giving you that spontaneous rush which is at the heart of why the Bluelight Special works,” Kelly Cook, Kmart’s chief marketing officer, said.