What Does the K in Kmart Stand For?

You probably didn't even know that it stood for something.

Shoppers head to their local Kmart to pick up apparel, furniture, home goods, and score other great deals, but as they’re grabbing their cart and heading into the store, they’ve probably never thought about what the K in Kmart actually stands for. It dates all the way back to the last initial of the founder of the very first store, Sebastian Spering Kresge. Believe it or not, the popular retail chain was once called S.S. Kresge.

big-kresge-@180Courtesy Ruth Heebner/Reminisce

When the first S.S. Kresge store opened in 1899, it was a variety store that featured low-priced merchandise in relatively small stores with sparse furnishings. This was a concept pioneered by F.W. Woolworth in 1879. The concept worked, and by 1917, when Kresge incorporated, there were 150 stores, and the company was second only to Woolworth’s as the largest variety store chain in the world.

Over the next 40 years, the company experimented with mail-order catalogs, self-service, and opening stores in shopping centers. By 1959, it was decided that Kresge should go beyond the original variety store and get into the discount store market, offering a wider merchandise mix. In 1962, the first Kmart store, the outgrowth of S.S. Kresge, opened in Garden City, Michigan.

Not only did the name of the store change, but their displays look a lot different today too. Take a look at some of the very first store displays.

halfCourtesy Ruth Heebner/Reminisce

When Ruth Heebner got the job of window dresser at the Kresge’s store in downtown Philadelphia in 1928, she didn’t figure that she’d be part of the window dressing! That’s Ruth on display for “Strawberry Festival” and the Bridal Banquet Specials. If this makes you curious about the history of other store names, here’s the fascinating origins of 14 famous company names.

Originally Published in Reminisce