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NEWS: Reading Tea Leafs

If Kmart has its way, Korean immigrants may learn about a BlueLight Special even before they get hooked on reality TV.

The troubled discount retailer last month introduced Tea Leaf, a new lifestyle publication printed in Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese and distributed as a wrap to its weekly newspaper advertising circular in several California cities.

As part of its comeback strategy, Kmart wants to improve its brand image and promote customer loyalty. One approach is appealing directly to different ethnic groups. Tea Leaf is one in a series of Kmart demographic publications.

The buying power of the Asian American population is about $254 billion, Kmart estimates. And according to recent census data, the group is growing 5.2 percent a year.

Kmart already is printing 1 million copies a week each of Urban Direct and La Vida for the black and Hispanic communities in California and other major cities, including Atlanta, Chicago and Miami. Tea Leaf's circulation will be expanded beyond California if the response is good, says a spokeswoman.

She wouldn't say how much Kmart is spending on the program or specify how its success is measured in dollars. She did say, however, that Urban Direct and La Vida have been paying off in increased response to ads in the publications.

The first issue of Tea Leaf last month featured a cover story on CBS news anchor Julie Chen. Urban Direct has put rapper LL Cool J on its cover. La Vida has written about the Latin Grammies.

TAGS: News
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