K mart coupon machines generate sales in stores

DETROIT — DETROIT -- It's called the blue-light-special machine, but it doesn't look anything like K mart's legendary flashing beacon atop a movable cart.

Yet customers are flocking toward it just as eagerly as toward the original, which store managers have used for years to announce unadvertised, 15-minute specials.


The updated version is a vending machine near the store entrance that dispenses coupons for everything from basketballs to blue jeans.

K mart began testing the machines last May at a handful of Detroit-area stores. Results have been so good that the discount chain, which is based in Troy, Mich., is installing them in all 113 of its southeastern Michigan stores. They're also in place at two prototype K marts in New York and California.


"What we've learned from this machine is that you can use coupons with higher-ticket, non-traditional items," not just basic consumer products, said K mart's director of sales promotion, George Shipes.

The machines dispense coupons for such items as home furnishings, cameras, car batteries, basketball backboards and blue jeans. Customers may get $4 off Gitano jeans, $10 off a Canon camera or $5 off Exide batteries.

The coupons are evidently working; sales of featured items have been up from 13 percent to 32 percent, the company said.

And, because there's so little effort involved, consumers are redeeming the coupons at a much faster pace than the typical cut-and-save coupons tucked inside Sunday newspapers, Mr. Shipes said.

While only about 3 percent of typical newspaper coupons are redeemed, 15 percent to 30 percent of K mart's blue-light-special coupons are being used, he said.