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Kmart to Sell Its Stock on Its Web Site

Kmart hopes to turn some of its 180 million customers into shareholders to increase their spending and loyalty.




shoppers! Here's the latest blue-light special: Company stock at just half the price of a year ago.

The country's second-largest retailer said Tuesday that it had teamed with the online investing firm


to sell Kmart common stock through the Web site of its recently started e-commerce company,


This move provides further evidence that online investing is moving from cutting edge to commonplace -- in this case Kmart.

But don't look for the kind of variety of products that Kmart normally provides in its cavernous stores -- the new service will only sell Kmart's stock. Forget about buying


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Kmart, which is based in Troy, Mich., said it hoped to turn some of its 180 million customers into shareholders in order to increase their spending and loyalty.

But some Kmart customers may have questions about the performance of the stock they are being offered. Kmart's shares have fallen by more than 50% over the last 52 weeks, from a high of 18 5/8. By midafternoon Tuesday, it was trading at 8 9/16, up 1/4, or 3%. (It closed up 3/8, or 4.5%, at 8 11/16.)

The stock has languished as the company's in-store sales stagnated and margins shrunk because of aggressive competition from rivals like Wal-Mart and



Kmart has also been struggling to catch up with its competitors to edge into the booming e-commerce arena. Analysts say still has only a fraction of the number of items that are available in Kmart's stores, while Wal-Mart's online selection is quickly surpassing its typical store inventory.

"We're still pretty negative on Kmart," said Robert Buchanan, a retailing analyst at

A.G. Edwards

. "This is a company that is really buckling under intense pressure from its competitors." A.G. Edwards rates Kmart stock a hold, and has not done any underwriting of stock or debt for the company.

Still, for those bent on placing their focus away from high-flying technology stocks and toward the slower-growth world of retailing, Kmart's service at least makes it easier. The system can be set up to make automatic monthly stock purchases and to email all investor relations materials.

But until Kmart's stock revives, its returns may only provide enough to buy ... well ... something at Kmart.