KMART SERVES GOURMET COOKIES

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Kmart Corp. wants consumers to trade up from the aroma of popcorn to fresh-baked gourmet breads and cookies in new giant-size Super Kmart Centers.

Inside each of the 25 Super Kmart stores that feature full-scale grocery departments and other new merchandising concepts, shoppers can also find cookies to rival Mrs. Field's and European-style bread.

Not surprisingly, the nation's No. 2 retailer hopes the gourmet touch will attract a new kind of customer, said Jan Higgins, bakery merchandising manager for the Super Kmart division.

"We developed this as part of our goal to change consumers' perceptions of the kinds of products you can buy at Kmart and let them know you can get high-quality and gourmet items here, too," Mr. Higgins said.

In each of the 170,000-square-foot hypermarkets-expected to total nearly 100 by yearend across the U.S.-the retailer is building a gourmet bakery offering a wide array of items in a separate kiosk area near the stores' main bakeries. The gourmet items are baked on the premises.

Staffed by one or two employees equipped with separate cash registers to allow customers quick checkout, the kiosks offer several specialty breads, including French-style, dark European-style, pumpernickel and rye. There are four varieties of large gourmet cookies.

Some bakeries also feature tables for shoppers who want to eat there. Items are sold individually and cost 20% to 25% more than other breads and cookies sold in the stores' general bakeries, Mr. Higgins said.

To drive awareness of the lines, Kmart offers "vigorous sampling" to shoppers, which has proved very successful in introducing the items, he said.

Kmart has also featured gourmet breads and cookies in some in-house-produced weekly newspaper circulars this year in markets with more than one Super Kmart Center; the company plans to advertise them when more are open later this year. Ross Roy Communications, Bloomfield Hills, Mich., handles Kmart magazine and TV advertising; much of the company's newspaper ads are handled in-house.

Figures weren't available, but Mr. Higgins said the gourmet bakeries' sales have been excellent.

Emily DeNitto coordinates Grocery Marketing News.

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