How Kohl’s Intends to ‘Reignite’ Its Women’s Business

Kohl’s Corp. is taking a less-is-more approach to revive its fashion business.

The value-oriented, promotional retailer said Tuesday it will be exiting “more than the eight women’s brands previously announced” and is streamlining men’s dress, handbags and fine-jewelry assortments because they are less productive.

Kohl’s has recast itself as a “destination for active, casual and beauty for the entire family” and relying more on such active and casual brands as Adidas, Under Armour, Nike, Champion and Columbia, which given the pandemic-related lifestyle changes toward work-at-home and sheltering in with cozy and comfortable clothes, seem more relevant than ever.

Kohl’s recently added Lands’ End, which should lift the outerwear category in particular; Lauren Conrad in beauty, and Adidas x Zoe Saldana activewear. Cole Haan footwear, and FLX, an ath-leisure private brand featuring performance fabrics, functional details and inclusive sizes, will be introduced in March. In addition, FLX was developed using sustainable methods and materials.

Kohl’s strategy to “reignite growth in women’s” was outlined in the retailer’s presentation to investors on Tuesday. Among the tactics:

• Reducing choice counts by 40 percent and increasing depth by 50 percent in the fourth quarter, in a “narrow and deep” approach.

• “Opening up the aisles” for easier shopping and less clutter.

• Doing more cross merchandising and “storytelling” to show outfits and trends.

• More mannequins are being placed on the selling floors for greater impact.

• Maximizing team sports, including the partnership with Fanatics sports apparel.

• Modernizing the store experience.

Kohl’s restructured its women’s organization so merchandising, planning and product development are “under a single source of accountability” and new leaders have been brought onto the team.

Last May, Kohl’s disclosed it would drop Dana Buchman, Jennifer Lopez, Mudd, Candie’s, Rock & Republic, PopSugar, Elle and Juicy Couture from its assortment.

Other fashion brands sold at Kohl’s include Eddie Bauer, Nine West, Chaps, Lauren Conrad and private labels Simply Vera Vera Wang, Sonoma, Apt. 9 and Croft & Barrow.

In beauty, Kohl’s plans to expand color and skin-care offerings and introduce “relevant” national brands, and leverage “success” seen with Lauren Conrad beauty. In December, Kohl’s rolled out a dozen reimagined beauty pads that double the footprint previously dedicated to beauty and have wider aisles, interactive technology so customers could figure out the color shades best for them, brighter lights and updated fixtures, as well as beauty advisers providing samples and educating customers on new brands or beauty trends. In addition, Kohl’s launched a beauty section called The Beauty Checkout for emerging brands in many of its stores.

Like all brick-and-mortar retailers selling nonessentials, Kohl’s’ has seen foot traffic decline at its stores across the country, though the retailer has the advantage of having 95 percent of its 1,163 stores located off malls, and 80 percent of Americans live within 15 miles of one of its locations.

Kohl’s told investors it has set an operating margin goal of 7 to 8 percent “as the environment normalizes,” through supply-chain changes, labor, marketing and technology efficiencies. The goal would mark a turnaround from last year’s operating margin drop to 6.1 percent from 7.2 percent in 2018.

Last year’s revenues were down slightly to $19.97 billion, from $20.23 billion in 2018. Adjusted operating income came to $1.2 billion last year, from $1.47 billion in 2018.

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