Kohl's Makes Careful Online Entrance

Share this content:
Kohl's Department Stores has at last embraced e-commerce, more than two years after rivals Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target and smaller, specialty chains opened their online stores.

The formal debut of Kohls.com on Aug. 8 coincided with the back-to-school season, when its target customer base of women shops for children's school supplies.

Initial merchandise categories include casual apparel, luggage and accessories, footwear, electronics and décor items. But Kohl's, like many traditional retailers, knows where its bread is buttered.

"Our growth is all about bricks-and-mortar expansion," said Susan Henderson, vice president of public relations at Kohl's. "That's really the big sales opportunity.

"The volume that we expect that we will get from e-commerce will not be significant to the total business and will not be reported separately," Henderson said from the Milwaukee suburb of Menomonee Falls, WI. "That's our expectation at this point."

Henderson's circumspect attitude may be because this is Kohl's first retail venture with remote sales. The retailer has no catalog.

Kohls.com will be promoted on a market-by-market basis. Initial efforts will focus on existing customers. To this end, the retailer Aug. 12 initiated marketing that includes the Web address in print, broadcast and radio ads, plus in-store publicity.

Created by Blue Martini Software Inc., San Mateo, CA, Kohls.com is styled on Kohl's bricks-and-mortar operations. The site, which has been in test since June, displays the same prices online as offline. Sales items will be displayed on the home page and in departments.

In a tactic popular with more upscale retail chains, Kohl's allows online visitors to shop by a specific type of merchandise or brand. It has created special brand stores for Levi's, Champion, KitchenAid and Fieldcrest products.

"From our standpoint, we're starting with a limited assortment," Henderson said. "We're taking a careful approach so that we can learn to provide [online] customer service, and we'll expand further if the customer demands."

The retailer, however, is encouraging consumers to use Kohls.com for gift buying. The site has gift cards and services. An offline bridal gift registry will be integrated online by the end of 2002.

"So our challenge really was to determine in a fast-growing bricks-and-mortar environment how to appropriately integrate the convenience of a Web site that would sell directly to our customers in such a way that delivers our value proposition of brands, value and convenience," Henderson said.

Kohls.com will serve markets not yet represented by Kohl's stores, she said. Kohl's has 356 stores in 28 states. Another 24 stores in are slated to open in October, mostly in its strongest markets -- the Midwest, South and Southwest. It plans to enter California and Arizona in 2003.

Despite Kohl's focus on offline stores, Henderson does not view the company's late entry into e-commerce as a lost opportunity.

"The timing factor for us is that we did not want to rush in," she said. "We did not want to spend an inordinate amount of money. [Now] we've been able to bring online a very effective online presence that complements our bricks-and-mortar presence."


Next Article in Multichannel Marketing

Sign up to our newsletters

Company of the Week

Since 1985, Melissa has helped thousands of companies clean, correct and complete contact data to better target and communicate with their customers. We offer a full spectrum of data quality solutions, including global address, phone, email, and name validation, identify verification - available for batch or real-time processes, in the Cloud or on-premise. Our service bureau provides dedupe, email/phone append and geographic/demographic append services for better targeting and insight. For direct mailers, Melissa offers easy-to-use address management/postal software, list hygiene services and 100s of specialty mailing lists - all with competitive pricing and excellent customer service.

Find out more here »

Career Center

Check out hundreds of exciting professional opportunities available on DMN's Career Center.  
Explore careers in digital marketing, sales, eCommerce, marketing communications, IT, data strategies, and much more. And don't forget to update your resume so employers can contact you privately about job opportunities.

>>Click Here

Relive the 2017 Marketing Hall of Femme

Click the image above