Ours was in Roebuck. In the early to mid-70s, K-Mart with its blue-light specials and frozen blueberry Icees, was a regular stop for my family.
Generally, I think it was Friday nights when my dad came home from work and wasn’t “too tired to drive right back to Birmingham”. We couldn’t go “to town” like my other friends on Saturday nights because my mom and dad worked at my grandparent’s store every weekend.
But when we needed something, like a new pair of shoes, construction paper for a school project, underpants or anything else we couldn’t get at Tucker Salvage, we headed to Roebuck and our K-Mart.
I can still remember how that K-Mart smelled. Like fresh popcorn and bubble-gum and artificial flowers. They also sold hot ham sandwiches and subs which I thought were the best sandwiches I had ever eaten in all my life.
We could get it all at K-Mart. Grab a buggy and stroll the aisles of the K-Mart and you could walk out with batteries, motor oil, curtains, dish towels, tennis shoes, Fiddle-Faddle and toothpaste. If I had been old enough, I would have bought stock in K-Mart. There was nothing else like it on earth. No way would K-Mart ever lose its customers.
I walk through the automatic doors of a “Super K-Mart” and it was like stepping back in time to 1978. Trouble is…going inside K-Mart today IS like stepping back in time to 1978. I half expected ABBA or Boston to be singing on the intercom system. There was no fresh popcorn smell and no “Blue Light Specials”. It was almost as if the colors weren’t as bold and clear…like from those 1970s era movies and tv shows. K-Mart has faded and worn badly.
So what happened to this wonderful utopian department store from my memory? Wal-Mart? Well, sure that had a lot to do with K-Mart losing its luster. In fact, the K-mart in Roebuck where we used to shop is now a Super Wal-Mart. Try finding a K-mart.
The truth is, K-Mart never evolved. In the 1980s, shoppers stopped going to K-Mart. The stores were out-dated, often not very clean, and just dingy. Wal-Mart didn’t really get going until around 1987 but had been building its empire since 1962. The K-Mart folks had to have known about Sam Walton and his little store. They had to have known what was coming. What did they do? Nothing.
According to Wikipedia, K-mart executives decided not to update K-Mart’s look and focused instead on other companies they had acquired. There’s been a bankruptcy and several other unfortunate business decisions but K-Mart is all but gone these days. When was the last time you walked into a K-Mart? How long did you have to think about your answer?
Bottom line is K-Mart never moved with the times. The outdated stores in 1984 are even more outdated today.
My point? I wonder if local television news is like K-Mart in the 1980s. Coming off very good times, but the new kid on the block (the internet and broadband video) sure seems to be a lot like Wal-Mart. It’s shinier and more convenient. Can’t find anything for the family to watch on network primetime tv? No problem, ignore K-Mart and watch what you want when you want over at Wal-Mart (YouTube, Apple TV).