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Kohl’s gets lift from better exclusives   

Chicago – Trading up with exclusive brands is working well in the home department, said mid-tier retailer Kohl’s – and the company intends to accelerate the process.

Even though the home business is “still pretty soft,” said Kohl’s chairman and ceo Larry Montgomery, speaking at the William Blair & Company Growth Stock Conference here today, the 957-store chain is “drawing customers from traditional department stores” as such shoppers give Kohl’s “huge credit” for its upgrades to quality, value and styling across its merchandise mix.

Montgomery said these fashion brand-destination Kohl’s consumers, “shopping for example for Simply Vera Vera Wang – are spending more, they’re opening up charge accounts, and they’re shopping in more than one area – which is like the trifecta for us.”

John Worthington, senior evp of stores, emphasized that long-term plans are bearing fruit at Kohl’s. He referred to the expansion of the better and best levels of merchandise, and the exclusive brands that have been added to the mix over the last two to three years, including Candie’s, Simply Vera Vera Wang, Daisy O, Elle, apt. 9 and Food Network. “Contemporary and updated are also growing well,” he said of those fashion components.

Kohl’s hit a 39% penetration of private and exclusive labels in 2007, and expects that to reach about 41% this year.

Worthington said in-store presentation has been key; for example, he noted that the use of “strike point” corner fixture packages has received favorable customer feedback, and said, “Everything on it exceeded plan.”

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