Kohl’s Wants to Dominate Active and Casual Categories – WWD

Kohl’s Corp. sees major growth in its activewear business as it leads with Nike, Under Armour and Adidas.

“It’s now 20 percent of our business. And we think there is more opportunity. As we look ahead, we believe active can be at least 30 percent of our business,” said Kohl’s chief executive officer Michelle Gass during the Goldman Sachs annual Global Retailing Conference on Wednesday.

Gass also revealed that Kohl’s will launch a new line next spring to “fully address the ath-leisure opportunity,” adding that the retailer sees itself over the next few years as “a true leader and a destination for all things active, casual and wellness for the entire family.”

She said, in the last five years, “we’ve really leaned into the active opportunity and just as a reminder, we’ve doubled that business.” Kohl’s generated just under $20 billion in volume last year, meaning active would represent about a $4 billion business at the value-oriented, promotional chain.

Nike, Under Armour and Adidas, she said, “have been critical.…We believe there is more opportunity with these brands both in terms of innovation, expanding the space, etc.” She also cited special sizes as an opportunity for growth in active.

“Second is the outdoor opportunity. We also see that as a tremendous opportunity not just for people who are doing activities outdoors but just in their casual lifestyles,” wearing outdoor gear on the streets, Gass said. “You’ll see more from us on that front again with our great partnership with Columbia.

“And then third is ath-leisure and we see opportunities within our existing brands with both those national brands I just spoke to as well as our private brands, but we’ve also identified a white space there. So for some time we’ve been working on a new private brand to fully address this ath-leisure opportunity,” for working out, streetwear or even wear to work. “We’ll be launching that in spring of 2021.”

Gass said the company has seen some recovery on the back-to-school business. “But I think it’s fair to say that this is not going to be a gangbuster back-to-school time because of the headwinds we’re facing.”

She talked up home as “a great category” and said the company will “lean into toys” for the holiday season.

“We expect that we’ll start seeing customers prepare for their holidays as early as October,” Gass said.

Kohl’s is planning for an early holiday season and “fueling that throughout whether that’s home, toys, casual as well as practical gifts.”

Kohl’s has the advantage of having 95 percent of its store footprint off mall. “We believe that’s going to even be more important during this time as customers are looking for safe shopping experiences.”

Michelle GrassWWD Apparel and Retail CEO Summit, New York, USA - 30 Oct 2018

Michelle Gass 
Patrick MacLeod/WWD

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