If You Shop at Kohl's, Prepare for a "Reinvention" at 100 Stores

The retailer is modernizing and working to improve the customer experience.

For many shoppers, consistency is key. Heading into a store and knowing exactly where to find what you need is equal parts convenient and comforting, streamlining the shopping process. But for some of us, it's exciting when retailers try something different and switch up the customer experience. Now, Kohl's is doing just that as part of its plans to revamp store strategy, according to top executives. Read on to find out how 100 locations are playing a part in Kohl's "reinvention."

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Kohl's ins't staying stagnant.

kohl's and sephora
Kohl's

Changes at Kohl's have been ongoing in 2022, including the introduction of self-pickup for online orders and the expansion of its partnership with Sephora.

On Aug. 18, the retailer announced that Sephora shops would be opened inside all of Kohl's stores, which total 1,165 nationwide, per The New York Times. As of August, the retailer had opened 600 Sephora shops, and 2023 will see the addition of 250 more, Michelle Gass, Kohl's CEO, said on an earnings call. The mini makeup hubs are 2,500 square feet in size, and intended to "update, refresh and reflow stores," according to a press release.

But this is just one component of a larger initiative to reinvent Kohl's stores, and now, the retailer has revealed specifics on what that might look like.

Shoppers in one city will be part of a test run.

kohl's redesign store concept
Kohl's

Kohl's shoppers in Tacoma, Washington, will soon be able to experience something newForbes reported. In November, the retailer will open up a new concept store, which will be smaller than standard Kohl's stores, at 35,000 square feet. Gass led a virtual tour of the store on Oct. 27, outlining changes that include an easily accessible self-pickup area, more "open sightlines," and more inclusive and diverse mannequins.

"We're in [the midst] of a big reinvention," Gass said during the tour, per Forbes. "It's all about serving the customer. The company can really be a leader in the active and casual lifestyle. There's strategy, product and value, and there's the experience. Thinking differently about the experience is a big part of this strategy."

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The shopping experience has been reimagined.

kohl's store
Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock

Kohl's announced plans for the Tacoma trial back in August, writing in a press release that the location will be "unlike any other." Kohl's promised a modern feel, as well as "product vignettes that tell stores across departments and brands" to help guide customers while they shop. According to Forbes, the retailer has stayed true to this vision.

"The way we have flowed the store will also look different and that's intentional," Gass said during the virtual tour. "What we've done is a different use of space, a different use of the walls. We're really taking advantage of that space, but importantly it's about inspiration and storytelling. What customers have told us, 'I'm time starved, I want solutions,' so we're mixing brands, it's not head to toe one brand."

This vision also includes tailoring stores to the local community. In Tacoma, that means a closer focus on outdoor and activewear, which the retailer honed in on "based on data" from customers. According to Gass, the focus will be different in other areas of the country, particularly the South, where customers might see "a lot more summer-oriented products, swimwear, tanks."

Several areas of the Tacoma store look different.

kohl's self-pickup
Kohl's

According to Forbes, the Tacoma store has women's clothing up front, with men's toward the back, and the self-pickup area has also been reworked for convenience. The home department will house familiar brands, but offer more in terms of experience.

"One of the things that we've done, which is different, is we do have these vignettes to offer solutions and inspiration," she said. "If you want, you can buy this candle and this pillow, but you can also buy things that come from our web exclusives. This is a good example of where physical and digital come together. It's super easy." To illustrate this, Gass noted that customers will be able to scan QR codes and order an entire display if they so choose.

An even larger diversion from the classic Kohl's store is the relocation of the checkout area, which isn't in the front.

"This whole area has been redesigned and it offers both the traditional associate checkout as well as self-checkout," Gass said, per Forbes. "This is a test. It has the latest hardware and software. It's very clean it's very modern." She also noted that self-checkout will have a convenient way to remove security tags—an issue that "has been a bit of a barrier" for the retail world.

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The Tacoma store is an "experiment."

current interior of a kohl's store
QualityHD / Shutterstock

In May 2022, Kohl's announced plans for 100 smaller-format stores "in markets currently untapped by existing Kohl's stores." According to Gass, the Tacoma store will be used as a test to see what works for customers and what doesn't before moving forward with additional locations.

She called Tacoma "an experiment" and stressed that the store is in the conceptual phase, so the additional stores might not look exactly the same.

"It's not yet what we've decided to scale for those 100 stores," she said. "We have working models that are based on the economics and experience. This was taking a white space and putting the customer first, using analytics data and saying, 'Okay, we're designing this store from scratch, what is possible.'"

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