You can still catch a bargain during a "blue light special" at Kmart's newest store on Waters Avenue in the Tampa area, but that's where the similarity between this store and other area Kmarts ends. "The prototype is in Michigan, and this is pulled off it," said Nancy Jones, manager of the new Kmart at 7651 W Waters Ave. The 119,000-square-foot store in northwest Hillsborough is the company's largest store in Florida and only the second of its kind in the country. Its forerunner is in Auburn Hills, Mich., Jones said. "The advantage is that we no longer have departments mingled with other departments," Jones said. In place of narrow aisles and crowded counters, the new Kmart offers wide, well-marked walkways with separate departments for everything from big men's clothing to housewares. "It's great," said shopper Maria Batista of Town 'N Country. "It has more things than other Kmarts." Kmart has faced increasing competition in recent years from discount retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target, and began an overhaul of its stores and marketing strategy in the mid-1980s. But Thursday, Jones dismissed the idea that the chain's new image is a response to its competition. "It has to do with our philosophy and our renewal program," Jones said. The store's new site is within a stone's throw of a Wal-Mart store on Waters Avenue.
STORM SYSTEM IN GULF HAS CHANCE TO GROW. The giant blob of thunderstorms and clouds over the southwestern Gulf of Mexico has some potential to strengthen into a tropical depression, according to the National Hurricane Center. A second reconnaissance aircraft will enter the system today to investigate. A search flight Thursday confirmed that even though the low-pressure system filled a lot of the skies over the gulf, Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and western Cuba, it didn't pack much punch. The heavy weather was moving slowly northwestward out over the greater gulf.