June 19, 2002, 12:00 AM

It’s official: BlueLight.com becomes Kmart.com

Once the leader in dot-com spin-offs, Kmart Corp. is re-launching its web site with a new name--Kmart.com--and new brands as Kmart looks to the online channel to help drive store traffic.

In a 180-degree turn from an earlier strategy that separated Kmart Corp.’s web operation from its stores with a different name, BlueLight.com, in hopes of attracting a different customer online, Kmart this week changed its web site’s name to Kmart.com to strengthen ties to its stores. The e-commerce site also now features more information on Kmart stories, such as a dedicated area on the home page that features promotions and sales; and an expanded inventory of nationally known brands such as Disney apparel and Pentax cameras. Kmart is kicking off the re-launch of its web site with a promotion offering customers 10% off purchases of $99 or more.

The name change follows consumer research that the company says shows shoppers “overwhelmingly preferred” the Kmart.com name to BlueLight.com. “As we build a new Kmart we feel it is important to demonstrate a unified brand message across all of our consumer touch points,” says Richard Blunck, Kmart senior vice president and CEO of BlueLightcom. “We are responding to our customers who have a very strong affinity to Kmart and what it represents – exclusive brands, value and convenience.”

Though the web site’s name is changing, there are no immediate plans to change the name of BlueLight.com, the wholly-owned Kmart subsidiary that operates the web site, or the name of its BlueLight Unlimited Internet Service. Consumers are able to access the shopping site through www.Kmart.com or www.BlueLight.com

The name change linking the site closer to the stores is an interesting twist on a common strategy in which retailers use established store presence to bolster a still-developing online presence. “It’s a reverse of that situation here, in that the company is using its online operation to bolster what’s going on in the stores,” says Mary Brett Whitfield, senior analyst at consultants Retail Forward Inc. “It is trying to tie the site more into the stores in featuring ‘This week in Kmart stores’ more prominently on the site to drive traffic into stores, as store traffic has dropped precipitously.”

Kmart, in the process of repositioning itself in the marketplace after filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January, is closing 13% of its stores this year.

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