BOSTON — Kmart is looking for minority support in crafting a new identity as it plans its exit from bankruptcy.

The Troy, Mich.-based discounter has launched Urban Direct, an urban-lifestyle glossy magazine aimed at strengthening its rapport with African-American shoppers. The launch follows the September debut of a Spanish-language publication, La Vida, and plans are to create a similar product for Asians.

The eight-page Urban Direct launched Sunday, wrapped around the advertising circular in roughly 1 million newspapers. The company is targeting nine metropolitan areas, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, New York metro markets and Philadelphia.

"When we look at the urban consumer, many are already Kmart shoppers," said Barbara Firment, senior vice president of advertising sales. "But we see a way to strengthen the relationship by talking to that audience in a more relevant way."

Currently, 15 percent of Kmart’s customers are African-American, although African-Americans make up only 12.9 percent of the general population, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. The inaugural issue, featuring rapper LL Cool J. on the cover, offers bite-sized articles on important historical and contemporary figures in the black community (hair care entrepreneur Madame C.J. Walker and poet-author Nikki Giovanni, to name two) to coincide with Black History month. Fashion layouts use African-American models to tout Route 66 jeans and a Joe Boxer handbag.

The company rolled out Urban Direct after strong initial response to La Vida, a Spanish-language lifestyle insert that courts Latino customers. La Vida launched as a monthly publication, but switched to a 52-week format because of strong interest, a spokeswoman said.

Firment said the company is working on a property aimed at Asian Americans, which represent only 5 percent of Kmart’s customer base. Regardless, because of their relative affluence, Firment believes the company has "as many opportunities there as we do with Hispanics and urban customers." The publication would likely debut in cities such as San Francisco, which has a large Asian population.

La Vida and Urban Direct each use topical advertising linked to editorial. The Super Bowl edition of La Vida, for example, touted snack foods and drinks such as Pepsi’s Sierra Mist, which got a "nice lift" in sales, according to Firment. Urban Direct will promote heath and beauty products, a category that’s strong with African-American consumers.

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