Heading Into Back-to-School Season, Kohl’s is Capitalizing on these Three Consumer Trends

  • Customers Crave Active & Casual Attire; Kohl’s Brand Portfolio Caters to Consumer Casualization Preferences
  • Convenience Remains a Top Priority; Kohl’s Omnichannel Strategy Offers Ease No Matter How Customers Choose to Shop
  • The Bar is Raised when it Comes to Value; Kohl’s Sees Positive Reaction to Simplified Loyalty Program

One of the biggest seasons of retail is upon us and Kohl’s is positioned to capitalize on three growing consumer trends as Americans prepare to head back-to-school and resume social gatherings once again. Last month, Michelle Gass, Kohl’s chief executive officer, sat down with Fortune’s senior writer Phil Wahba during the National Retail Federation Converge event to discuss these consumer trends, the future of physical stores and how Kohl’s strategy is positioning the company well for the back half of the year. 

“I’d point to three trends that we have been monitoring closely that we expect will carry into the future...First of all, around the consumer and how they’re dressing and wanting to dress more comfortably, more casually and more actively. Secondly, the importance around ease and convenience; and third is value overall,” explained Gass. 

Active and Casual is Here to Stay
Casual dressing has accelerated in popularity among consumers during the pandemic. People aren’t just wearing active apparel to work out. They’re carrying that active and casual wardrobe into their everyday lives. For Kohl’s it means leaning into the distinctive portfolio of brands, where Kohl’s has a big advantage.

“We have a great suite of private brands that we’ve been working to transform and streamline, and we also have notable national brands like Nike, Under Armour and adidas that our customers know and love. And then we also have well known casual brands like Levi’s and others coming this fall,” said Gass. “The fact that we have the power of proprietary brands, together with these national brands, really sets us apart from many of our competitors.”

This back-to-school season, customers will see Kohl’s active and casual apparel offerings front and center as kids and adults alike look to refresh and replenish their wardrobes. With apparel like everyday tees, dresses, sweaters, and flannels for layering, along with the top names and styles in denim, Kohl’s is the back to school destination for the entire family. 

Convenience is Key
Ease and convenience continues to be of importance to customers. Whether that’s the convenience of shopping digitally - which was significantly accelerated by the pandemic - or more convenient in-store shopping services, customers crave options that make their lives easier. Kohl’s has continued to leverage the power of its position as an omnichannel retailer to meet customers where they want to shop. With a healthy physical store footprint that offers services including drive up and in store pick up, coupled with a strong digital presence, Kohl’s has been able to navigate challenges because of its omnichannel presence. 

No matter how customers prefer to do their shopping this back-to-school season, Kohl’s offers an easy experience. Whether they’re shopping in-store, online, or a combination of both, Kohl’s offers conveniences like free store pick up options including Buy Online, Pick Up In Store and Drive Up, the Kohl’s App which makes shopping on the go easy, and Kohls.com which offers expanded assortments and shopping solutions like a back-to-school landing page on where customers can easily find the latest styles of the season. 

Value is Top of Mind
Value has always been important to the Kohl’s customer, but the bar has been raised in terms of how customers view value, which is now as a blend of value and loyalty. 

“We’ve always had a strong loyalty program and we just revamped and evolved it,” said Gass. “As [a retailer] that leads in loyalty, you have to stay one step ahead. So we’ve made it simpler, more accessible, and we’re seeing great reaction to that.” 

Customers can find value at every turn when shopping at Kohl’s. Whether it's through the company’s iconic Kohl’s Cash where customers can earn $10 Kohl’s Cash for every $50 spent during a Kohl’s Cash earn period, or through the newly refreshed Kohl’s Rewards program where customers can sign up for free to earn 5% Kohl’s Cash on every purchase, no matter how they choose to pay, customers will feel rewarded when shopping this back to school season.

These three trends play squarely into Kohl’s long term strategy to become the trusted destination for the active and casual lifestyle. As customers begin refreshing their wardrobe for the new school year as well as heading out more for social gatherings and activities with family and friends, Kohl’s has everything families need to feel prepared for the fresh start. 

The Future of Stores
Another key point of discussion during Michelle and Phil’s fireside chat was on the topic of the physical store and what the Kohl’s customer can expect from an in-store shopping experience in the future. 

“I think customers are going to be excited to come into stores, to browse, to discover, to have that social experience where shopping can be fun again,” explained Gass. “And so I think stores are going to have a renaissance so to speak, and people have been underestimating how that is going to unfold.” 

Kohl’s is making it easier for customers to shop, find what they are looking for, and most importantly, be inspired while they are there. As customers head into Kohl’s to do their back-to-school shopping, they will immediately notice how the company has reflowed the merchandise to position Active at the front of the store, and has removed fixtures and reduced inventory to make a cleaner, more shoppable experience.

“It’s a new day at Kohl’s. It’s a fresher, more modern, more relevant experience, both for our existing customers and all the new and younger customers we’re going to continue to welcome,” concluded Gass.