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The Big K is getting bigger.
Kmart Corp. is adding full-service grocery stores to four of its Alaska retailers, including the Big K in Juneau. By mid October, Kmart's limited selection of food will expand to include 40,000 grocery items and include deli, produce and meat sections plus fresh seafood, sushi and other specialty foods, said Julie Fracker, Kmart spokeswoman.
"By doing this we're making things more convenient for our customers," Fracker said. "Now they can pick up all their groceries in addition to the general merchandise they would come to Kmart for."
The Alaska stores in Juneau, Fairbanks and two in Anchorage will be the first in the state to expand to so-called Kmart Supercenters. The $40 billion company already has more than 100 Supercenters across the country and about 2,100 retail outlets overall, according to a press release.
Fracker said the Alaska stores are good candidates for the conversion because they are large, averaging 140,000 square feet each whereas other Kmarts average less than 100,000 square feet. Fracker said the Alaska retailers are large enough to accommodate grocery items without displacing other goods.
"It allows us to introduce groceries into the mix without compromising space for other merchandise," she said.
Alaskan & Proud grocery store's Ben Williams said Kmart's expansion could take business away from other merchants in Juneau, a town already saturated with grocery stores. With the Kmart conversion, Juneau will have six major grocery retailers plus Costco, a wholesale store used by the general public.
"If you take the square footage of grocery stores in Juneau and then you take the number of people in Juneau per square foot, it's higher than anywhere else in Southeast," said Williams, general manager of A&P. "Juneau has a market that's probably a little oversaturated in grocery stores per capita right now, and it will make it very interesting."
Fred Meyer also sells groceries and a wide range of general merchandise, but company spokesman Rob Boley said the stores are very different. Fred Meyer offers mostly brand-name general merchandise whereas Kmart carries more discount goods, said Boley, assistant vice president of public relations. However, he did expect some increased competition with Kmart.
"What we've got to do is make sure we continue to reward our customers' loyalty with low prices and high quality," he said.
Fred Meyer's decades of experience in marketing the one-stop shopping concept gives it an edge over Kmart, said Boley, adding Fred Meyer sales in stores across the country have grown despite increased competition.
"Our company is one that has continued to see its sales grow, and we've continued to add stores and expand in all our markets - regardless of who opens," he said.
The Juneau Kmart became a Big K two years ago after expanding its merchandise to include some food - mostly dry goods and some refrigerated items. Kmart will not close during the Supercenter conversion, but construction crews have walled off some sections of the Juneau retailer. Little Caesars Pizza Station is closed for the remodel and the film section has moved to the electronics department.
Kathy Dye may be reached at email@example.com.