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Home textiles in the lead at Kohl’s

Menomonee Falls, Wis. – Unlike many of its competitors in the department store sector, Kohl’s posted better-than-store-average comps in its home area, and experienced “heavy growth” in its soft home categories during the first quarter.

During the 834-unit mid-priced department store chain’s quarterly earnings conference call late yesterday, president Kevin Mansell said home’s growth was being “fueled” by several efforts. These include: strong customer acceptance to new brands, such as Vera Wang, Chaps, and Casa Cristina – the latter which he noted Kohl’s being “very happy with its performance” – positive customer response to the push for better and best price points; rationalizing the assortment; and improvements in inventory management with solid in-stock percentages and “way up” service levels.

“Home comps were better than the store total, and this was driven by the same things we’ve been successful with in home over last year-and-a-half or so,” Mansell said. “I do think we’re running contrary to trend. We definitely are not seeing home as being soft. The new brands and new launches are helping home in a big way.”

Come September with the launch of some new programs like Food Network in housewares, home is one of the categories that will be further supported “with enhanced pictures and focal points in all stores,” said senior evp Tom Kingsbury.

Added Larry Montgomery, chairman and ceo: “We have a lot of new initiatives coming this fall. Our partnership with Vera Wang and the Food Network will drive a lot of excitement into our stores. These initiatives will allow us to not only gain share of wallet of existing customers – but gain new customers as we continue to broaden our customer base.”

When asked by a financial analyst about the status of Kohl’s partnership with Li & Fung, Mansell said the retailer is “very happy with that relationship” and as “not changing.” He added that it is “growing, and you’re seeing it in the results. We have some of the biggest improvements in margins in the industry, and a lot of that is due to sourcing efforts of private and exclusive brands.”

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