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Big Kmart gets bigger and adds more hours

Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2001

A set of ratchets, some shoes and a pound of beef may soon be on a typical list for Juneau residents heading out to shop at the new Super Kmart.

Big Kmart, on Glacier Highway near the Williams Express Gas Station, will complete its conversion to a Super Kmart on Saturday, finishing construction that began in May. The Super Kmart will combine the current department store goods found at the Big Kmart with a full-service grocery store taking its inventory from 130,000 products to 150,000. The store also added self-checkout lanes for its customers and will be open 24 hours a day.

Kmart's conversion will give Juneau its sixth full-service grocery store and has some grocers gauging the effect this will have on business.

Kmart's Juneau history

1993: Kmart department store opens in Juneau.

1999: Kmart converts into a Big Kmart, offering a larger variety of dry or pantry goods.

May 2001: Juneau Big Kmart begins construction to add a grocery component to the store. No extra space is added and managers reconfigure the existing store to hold its increased inventory.

September 2001: Kmart adds self checkout lanes, nears completion of in-store construction, adds outside signs changing the name from Big Kmart to Super Kmart and adding the 24-hour designation.

October 2001: Store employees start putting grocery products on the shelves and filling coolers.

Oct. 20, 2001: Kmart officially debuts as Super Kmart.

Juneau Big Kmart store Director Glen Broaddus said superstores are the trend in shopping and it's imperative for the company to respond or lose its customer base.

"Convenience is the main reason for the change. The average mother would rather go to one store to complete her shopping instead of three or four. The superstore is the wave of the future," he said. "If we don't respond to that need and change to go with it we go under."

Broaddus acknowledged with at least five other full-service grocery stores that there will be increased competition but believes the market can support it.

"We expect to be fully competitive. We're not trying to put anyone out of business but we plan to be the best and lowest priced in Juneau," he said. "There's definitely room for another grocery store in town. Look at the Lower 48, there's a grocery store every four blocks. There's always room for a store that wants to give a fair price."

Fred Meyer, a general merchandise and grocery store, is less than a mile from Kmart's doors on Glacier Highway and may be its biggest competitor. However, Rob Boley, spokesman for Fred Meyer, said he wasn't concerned.

"We've competed with Kmarts in other markets and they've had little to no impact," Boley said. "We've been around a lot of years and are experts in the food business, which means we are way up at the top of the learning curve and they are at the bottom."

Super Kmart at a glance

New Features at the Super Kmart:

Open 24-hours.

Electronic self checkout system.

A full-line bakery, deli, rotisserie, seafood and sushi counters, an expanded dairy and a complete frozen food section and convenience pantry.

Famous Eddies, a Brooklyn-style hot dog shop, replaces Little Caesars Pizza Station.

Boley said Fred Meyer has an established a loyal clientele and developed a strong supply of merchandise since it opened in 1984. Boley said he expects some shoppers will switch to Kmart if only to compare the two stores, but most will come back.

"In the past when a new retailer enters into a market we see people trying it out and we see new shoppers come into our stores," he said. "It just reminds us to continue to do a good job with low prices and good service."

Owners or managers at Juneau's other four full-service grocery stores - Alaska and Proud, Family Grocer, Super Bear Supermarket and Carrs Quality Center - could not be reached or had no comment on Kmart's new grocery sales.

Kmart will also compete by becoming a 24-hour store.

"It just gives an added convenience," Broaddus said. "We realize in a smaller town like Juneau there's not a lot of call to go grocery shopping at 2 a.m. ... but its not really a concern."

Carr's manager Leanne Ng said the Vintage Park store tried staying open 24 hours but dropped back to its 18-hour schedule because the shifts were hard to staff, customers were sparse and crime increased.

Julie Fracker, spokeswoman for the Kmart Corp., said the 24-hour concept is something the company is testing throughout its four stores in Alaska. She said if necessary stores can scale back the number of employees or close certain departments.

"Cost really isn't an issue for us," she said. "It doesn't cost us more to keep the store open 24 hours. And there are things like resetting departments and restocking that employees can do at night to get ready for the next day. But it really is just an added convenience and I think once it's in place most people will love it and wonder what they did before they had it."

As for crime, all Kmart superstores are equipped with surveillance cameras in the store and parking lot, Fracker said. However, she said if there is a need Kmart will authorize increased security personnel in the stores open 24 hours.

Melanie Plenda may be reached at mplenda@juneauempire.com.



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