Kohl’s makes its move

Discussion
Feb 17, 2015

While grocers and pharmacies have been jumping all over the health & wellness trend for years, some department stores and apparel chains are now just joining the fray. One prime example is Kohl’s recent move to become the exclusive department store retail partner for The Color Run.

Appearing on the scene in 2011, color runs are popular 5K events in which runners wearing white t-shirts get doused with colored powder. Because they’re untimed, the races tend to be non-competitive and are described as "the Happiest 5k on the Planet."

As the exclusive department store retail partner, select Kohl’s stores will serve as the packet pick-up location for races in more than 100 cities across the county.

The partnership builds on the January launch of Kohl’s "Make Your Move" initiative, "which invites America to get active and incorporate wellness into their lifestyle." As part of that launch, 10 influential women’s fitness bloggers were recruited to talk about their fitness regimen and their related purchases at Kohl’s on the retailer’s social channels. The bloggers are receiving gift cards as compensation.

Kohl’s also said it offers inspiration through social channels and related sponsorships on TV programs such as The Biggest Loser and the Today Show. Customers are being encouraged to "share their wellness journey" at #MakeYourMove as are The Color Run participants.

Said Michelle Gass, Kohl’s chief customer officer, "We know jumping into the active lifestyle is a different experience for everyone and The Color Run is the perfect event for families to have fun with fitness."

The move comes as many department stores and apparel specialty chains have been expanding their fitness apparel assortments to address the "athleisure" trend, in which women are not only working out and doing yoga but increasingly looking to wear stretchy tops and more comfortable leggings for casual purposes.

Lululemon, the leader of the athleisure trend, sponsors a half-marathon in its hometown of Vancouver, but retail race sponsorships are rare. In a twist, Nordstrom just announced that its new nonprofit partner will be Girls on the Run, an empowerment program for girls in 3rd-8th grade that teaches life skills through conversation-based lessons and running games.

How is the health & wellness trend for department stores and apparel chains similar and different than the related trend at grocers and pharmacies? What do you think of Kohl’s sponsorship of The Color Run and its “Make Your Move” initiative?

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14 Comments on "Kohl’s makes its move"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
7 years 4 months ago
Well for starters, wearing yoga pants is somewhat less beneficial than say, eating correctly. That obvious issue put to bed, I guess this is yet one more example of the commercial behavior we could label “retail lemmingism.” It seems few retailers are immune to the temptation to jump on what at least appears to be the latest bandwagon. The issue of course is that Kohl’s is basically approaching “health” as fashion—pick up your shirt for an essentially non-timed run, where groceries and pharmacies are at least stocking products perceived to be healthy and—in the case of CVS—removing products perceived to be unhealthy. By the way, this isn’t to say that the grocery and drug channels are being any less superficial than the mass merchants. Sure, I may be able to buy organic kale in a supermarket and I can’t buy cigarettes at CVS, but I can buy Twinkies and sugar-filled soft drinks at both. As for whether or not this will work for Kohl’s—it may add a few customers and it certainly won’t cost them… Read more »
Dick Seesel
Guest
7 years 4 months ago

Activewear as streetwear (or “athleisure”) has been trending for a while but seems to be reaching another level, based on the amount of yoga-inspired clothing in traditional department stores’ apparel departments. And this doesn’t even include the expanded space being given to activewear itself. It’s hard to ignore the impact that Lululemon and Athleta (among others) have had on this kind of lifestyle merchandising, far beyond the original impact of brands like Juicy Couture.

In Kohl’s case, the company has long had a deeper position in activewear (including team apparel and athletic shoes) than most of its traditional department store rivals. It’s now gone a big step further by relocating women’s and men’s activewear to the former junior location, inside the front doors and across from “center core”—at least in some of the stores that I visit regularly. So “The Color Run” sounds like it’s perfectly aligned with this strategic initiative, just like the big business Kohl’s appeared to do in fitness trackers during the holiday season.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
7 years 4 months ago

Being the pick-up point for registration packets is a nice way to encourage a visit to the store and associate its brand with a community event and an active lifestyle event. Associating with sports activities or events also creates an opportunity to sell related apparel and accessories related to the sport. The issue is trying to match the sports activity or event to your consumers and to provide value for them related to their sport or activity of choice.

Tom Redd
Guest
7 years 4 months ago

Kohl’s and other similar store types can promote health and wellness by sponsoring and supporting related events and activities, but no value beyond that. Living longer and better has nada to do with what you wear. I am proof of that. My CrossFit instructor informed me that my workout shorts were out of fashion. I asked, “will this impact my performance or heart rate?” She replied, “No, but it will bother me.” To avoid any attention and avoid being assigned more exercises I picked up new shorts. My 1982 shorts are gone.

Who cares what you wear if you are working to get into better shape?

Max Goldberg
Guest
7 years 4 months ago

If the health and wellness trend for department stores fits the products they carry it makes sense, otherwise, it’s a disconnect. Pharmacies and health clinics are a natural fit, as are grocers and advice on healthy eating. Kohl’s sponsorship of The Color Run will bring new customers into the stores, and it fits the lifestyle of many current Kohl’s shoppers.

Anne Howe
Guest
7 years 4 months ago

I believe this is a smart move for Kohl’s, and it should drive the right kind of traffic into the newly relocated “fitness casual” department. Kohl’s challenge is to make something more of the opportunity to “connect” emotionally with consumers across the various new touch points this opportunity will create.

I don’t know what Kohl’s stands for as it relates to women or wellness, so they had best begin the conversation with some meaning and purpose. I’m listening, and I hope to hear more from them than “things on sale” messages.

Robert DiPietro
Guest
7 years 4 months ago

It is purely a case of jumping on the trend bandwagon. I think the sponsorship is inline with their customer—it’s a non-timed race so more of a social scene than an athletic event. They are not serving the hardcore runner but someone who wants to be healthy and may not need technical gear, but some type of apparel to exercise in.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
7 years 4 months ago

Good for Kohl’s. But it seems to make more business sense for a company like Dick’s Sporting Goods to be involved in such an endeavor. My previous experience when picking up race packets was to check around the store because it was selling items related to racing. That may not be the case with Kohl’s, but they have gotten themselves involved in an excellent community network.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
7 years 4 months ago

As most here note, it’s the difference between actually offering something that advances the cause of “health and wellness” and a marketing ploy. A response would be that there’s nothing wrong with “doing the right thing”—or really pushing other people to do it—regardless of the motivation, but I don’t find much to applaud either.

Zel Bianco
Guest
7 years 4 months ago

Partnering with The Color Run is a strong move that will encourage visits and, if memory serves from participating with my family a few years ago, the purchase of some white running clothes so that you get the full effect in your “after” pictures. The non-competitive, family-friendly demographic is a good fit for Kohl’s and the marketing materials will certainly be eye-catching.

Roger Saunders
Guest
7 years 4 months ago

Smart move on Michelle Gass’ part. Bringing Kohl’s into the fitness space ties well with the merchandise lines, as well as the lifestyle outlook that Kohl’s shoppers carry with them.

The Prosper Monthly Consumer Survey shows the Kohl’s shopper is more likely to exercise regularly compared to adults 18-and-over—36.9 percent say they do so. They also say they are “happy/totally happy” about their health —Kohl’s shoppers (61.4 percent) vs. adults, 18-and-over (58.3 percent). When consumers are asked about their level of Happiness over 12 categories of their lifestyle, Kohl’s shoppers index at 111.3 percent—a smooth and important step up since the time that the index was first developed in 2010. That compares to adults 18-and-over of 104.1 percent.

Kohl’s is moving to the same page as their customers. When they promote the message along with “Make Your Move,” be sure to include photos of men. While 59.3 percent of Kohl’s shoppers are female, that still leaves an important 40.7 percent who are male.

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest
Naomi K. Shapiro
7 years 4 months ago

This is what I wanted to say, but Max Goldberg said it better: “If the health and wellness trend for department stores fits the products they carry it makes sense, otherwise, it’s a disconnect. Pharmacies and health clinics are a natural fit, as are grocers and advice on healthy eating.”

Kai Clarke
Guest
7 years 4 months ago

These are specific sponsorships that are very similar to health related sponsorships from other retailers. As a runner, we choose races based upon their size and convenience, not because they have a specific sponsor. It is great that more stores are aware and sponsor more health activities, since this is great for their communities in general!

William Passodelis
Guest
7 years 4 months ago
It is a gimmick. It will drive a small number of sales, perhaps Kohl’s will sponsor the run for the next 100 years, that is fine and it is good for your name to be seen. It is GOOD involvement and acting as a good citizen. There could be more involvement with many different things, by many different retailers. That is the way it was a long time ago when local stores existed, and there can be some promotion and talk of that involvement (too much however simply appears self serving). I think people in general will appreciate that Kohl’s is helping this cause, but I think these days the older people really do not care and that is not why they shop at Kohl’s, and the younger people EXPECT it, and that is also NOT why they would shop at Kohl’s, although it may have a small effect with some. Overall, the support of this and the step into the health and wellness trend is simply an attempt to relate and be contemporary—not necessarily… Read more »
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