Kmart looks to a new day after emerging from bankruptcy

Wednesday, May 7th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DETROIT (AP) _ Kmart Corp. officials say they are emerging from the largest-ever retail bankruptcy with a solid plan to provide customers with what they want.

``We've got a solid business plan that we're going to implement every day,'' said Dave Marsico, senior vice president for store operations, who spoke Wednesday after a celebratory ceremony at a Super K on the Detroit-Southfield city line.

``We've got a good plan and are marching forward,'' he said, shrugging off analysts' concerns that the discount retailer would have a difficult time re-establishing itself in the face of competition from its chief rivals, Target Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

While the two companies have clear-cut strategies, Kmart hasn't exactly articulated how it will stand out from the crowd.

But it now has 600 fewer stores _ about 1,500 in all _ and a $2 billion loan to compete against bigger merchants. It is on the lookout for top executives to lead it along the new road.

So far, Kmart has only said it aims to be ``the store of the neighborhood,'' and that it wants to strengthen its relationship with Hispanics and blacks, as well as develop its urban stores.

Earlier in the day, Marsico offered the company's appreciation to its employees who he said stood beside it throughout the ordeal.

``I really want to thank you and the 100,000 like you around the country,'' Marsico said. ``I want to thank you for sticking with us.''

The morning celebration at one of 60 Super K stores around the country was marked by a cake-cutting ceremony. That was preceded by a rousing cheer session during which about 50 employees yelled ``We are'' when asked ``Who's number one.''

Marsico said the new company has a lot to offer and stressed brand names like Joe Boxer and Martha Stewart that the retailer hopes will provide it with solid footing.

His enthusiasm was shared by the employees.

``I'm ecstatic,'' said Sylvette Hawkins, who led the morning cheer. ``I'm happy for all the employees in this company. It's a relief to be through with this.''

Other executives said that they were staying the course in terms of providing customers with what they want.

``It's been an ongoing thing, and it will continue to be an ongoing thing,'' said Randy Colbus, regional vice president for the Supercenters in the United States and the Caribbean.

``We've been working all along to provide top service to customers,'' he said.