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Kohl's cashes in on moderate tier

New York — Kohl's remains a bright spot in the cloudy retail landscape.

Patricia Johnson, who was recently promoted to evp and cfo, said Kohl's is committed to drive top line and bottom line growth. "Taking market share is what Kohl's is all about," she said.

Over the past five years, Kohl's has had a compounded annual growth rate of 26.7 percent, and comp store sales growth has risen from 7.9 percent to 11.3 percent. Average comp store sales growth is 9.2 percent for all stores and 6.6 percent for stores that are five years old or more — still ahead of the comp store sales of its competitors, she said.

"We've exceeded our top-line objective, and we've exceeded our comp store sales objective as well," she added.

In addition, Johnson said that "we've clearly outperformed our competitors for the first half of the year." Year-to-date comp store sales growth, through August, were 5.3 percent for Kohl's, followed by 2.6 percent at JCPenney, -1.4 percent at Mervyns and -1.7 percent at May Department Stores. Kohl's has a top-line growth goal of 20 percent, she said, and a comp store sales goal of 5 percent — which it has been achieving, even in this environment.

"People have asked me if we are slowing our expansion plan," said coo Arlene Meier. "We are not slowing our expansion plans in any way." In fact, the company plans to continue growing its square footage 18 percent to 20 percent every year.

"We're driving market share through our expansion program," Johnson said, noting that many of its competitors have been closing locations.

Kohl's had 320 stores at the end of last year, and will have 62 additional stores this year, with plans to open 70 new stores next year. "There's opportunity to continue our expansion program in every region of the country," Meier said. "It's important to have a blend of fill-ins in existing markets and enter new markets."

The company has previously announced that it will enter the Houston market next Spring, and West Coast markets in 2003 and 2004. Additional DCs will also open, including a former Wards 350,000 square foot DC in Texas, and another in New York that will be operational by the end of this year. Meier added that Kohl's will announce a California location later this month for a DC.

"Driving customers into the store is critical now," she said, "and inserts are the other major vehicle." She named the Kohl's credit cards as another way to drive traffic.

The Get It! program, which highlights seasonal key items, has been expanded this fall to items throughout every department, with in-stock guarantees on all sizes and colors.

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