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Monday, April 27, 2015

FLASHBACK: Before There was Super Kmart, There was American Fare: The Original Hypermarket.


As the pool of interesting concepts developed by Kmart and Sears over the years has come to a slow wind to the end with the last few Super Kmart stores converting to traditional formats and only Sears stores and Kmart stores left for now at least, lets take some time to reflect on one of the most interesting concepts developed by Kmart that may have brought Wal-Mart to introduce Sam's Club.

The store was called American Fare, and the name was last seen as Kmart's house brand of food and generic products. now known as Smart Sense. Before there was Super Kmart, this concept was created in the late 1980's as there version of a hypermarket, originally started in France by Carrefour. This idea was also very similar to Wal-Mart's Hypermart USA and both started around the same times but in very different markets and Carrefour brought stores over here also, yet no concept lasted past the mid-90's.

The hypermart was meant to be a blend between what is now non-existent today, or at least very rare, and that's tradition, the concept was suppose to be part department store, grocery store, and general merchandise and housewares, then to be replaced with by the supercenter name and now its what sets traditional store formats in America (Wal-Mart).

American Fare merchandise was supplied by Kmart Stores and Bruno's Supermarket, as Kmart owned the chain and division, they held a 51% share and Bruno's 49%. The first location opened January 29, 1989 in Stone Mountain, Georgia, followed by the second and now the most famous location and one of the largest former Steve & Barry's stores in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 1, 1990. and the third in August of the same year in Jackson, Mississippi, until the chain was dissolved in 1994.

This store was the mother of shopping concepts as the location in Stone Mountain, Georgia opened at just over 244,000 square feet. There was everything that had to be down under one roof, food, cloths, cleaners, video store, bank, food court, salon, and 81 registers to handle it all!

The one in Charlotte, North Carolina opened April of 1990 and was around 100,000 square feet smaller than the one in Georgia and the sales tactics were changed dramatically to improve business and provided more merchandise.

The third opened August 1990 in Jackson, Mississippi at 147,000 square feet and there were plans for a fourth store in Birmingham, Alabama, but was dropped for the investment of time in the upcoming Super Kmart brand.

The first Super Kmart opened in July 1991, and in June 1992, Bruno's dropped its ownership in American Fare and left Kmart to take full responsibility. That would bring Kmart to end American Fare so short into its run as in November 1992, the stores in Jackson and Charlotte were converted to Super Kmart and in 1994.

The Stone Mountain store lost its grocery section and was subdivided and Cub Foods took the new opened section of the store and the remaining American Fare was converted to a regular Kmart store in May 1994.

Stone Mountain, Georgia
By May, as the rest of the first and last American Fare was gone completely upon completion of converting to a traditional Kmart format. This was not all of Kmart's fault, its the idea that was not back, the markets changes and the format of a hypermarket died and killed Hypermart USA by Wal-Mart, sent Carrefour back to France, and Kmart to close the American Fare.

Now the Charlotte store remains as the only original American Fare store, being a Super Kmart and then Steve & Barry's. The Georgia store was converted into a school and the Jackson store remained Kmart until 2003 when the bankruptcy hit, and the store was empty for 5 years until 2007 when Carmax bought the property the old store was torn down.


Please comment and post what you think and thank you for reading.


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