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Better Exclusives Lift Kohl's

Fashion Component Drawing Shoppers

Trading up with exclusive brands is working in the home department, said mid-tier retailer Kohl's — and there's more to come.

Even though home is "still pretty soft," said Kohl's chairman and ceo Larry Montgomery at the William Blair & Co. Growth Stock Conference here, 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 mix.

Montgomery said 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, said long-term plans are bearing fruit. He referred to the expansion of the better and best levels of merchandise, and the exclusives 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 to hit 41% this year.

Worthington said in-store presentation has helped; he noted the installation of "strike point" corner fixture packages as a big plus, saying, "Everything on it exceeded plan."

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