Overheard On Wall Street: Kohl’s, Nordstrom & Finish Line

It’s been a busy week in the world of footwear and apparel. Between Ralph Lauren’s announcement that he’s stepping aside as CEO of his eponymous company and Hudson’s Bay Co.’s decision to slash 265 jobs, market watchers were in a chatterbox frenzy.

While Lauren’s announcement — which included confirmation that acclaimed former global president of Old Navy Stefan Larsson would take on the role — made major waves, there were a few other buzz items that you may have missed.

Here’s what FN’s business editor overheard on The Street this week.

Kohl’s Corp.

The Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based department-store chain announced this week a partnership with fashion-footwear mogul Steve Madden and his Madden Girl line. Madden Girl fashion, cold-weather boots, accessories and outerwear will be available, starting Oct. 15, in Kohl’s stores and on Kohls.com, the company said Thursday.

“Kohl’s is thrilled to be launching this highly relevant, fashion-forward lifestyle brand,” Michelle Gass, Kohl’s chief merchandising and customer officer, said in a release. “It will strengthen our ability to speak to millennial audiences with a product mixture of boots, outerwear and accessories and help to position Kohl’s as a destination for on-trend clothing and accessories.”

In late August, Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s chairman, president and CEO, assured investors that the company was still on its way to a more-consistent earnings performance after the department-store chain’s sales landed below expectations in Q2. Mansell had suggested that he saw more potential for the company during the fall and back-to-school seasons (Q3).

In the second quarter, lower merchandise demand and shifts of tax-free holidays from July into August weighed down the company’s margins.

Nordstrom Inc.

After market close Thursday, Nordstrom announced the closing of its credit-card transaction with TD Bank USA N.A. The deal included the sale of its credit-card portfolio, for $2.2 billion. The initiation of the long-term agreement will make TD the exclusive U.S. issuer of Nordstrom-branded Visa and private-label consumer credit cards.

The net proceeds from the sale — roughly $1.8 billion — will be returned to shareholders through dividend and share repurchase. Shareholders are set to receive a special cash dividend of $4.85 per share — an aggregate payment of approximately $900 million — payable on Oct. 27.

Nordstrom also simultaneously announced a $1 billion share repurchase program.

The company said the transaction would have “virtually no service impact on Nordstrom cardholders, customers and employees,” suggesting it expects seamless integration following the deal.

“Thematically, we like Nordstrom’s long-term approach, which is fully focused on addressing what customers want from a product, channel and shopping experience point of view,” wrote Cowen & Co. analyst Oliver Chen in an Oct. 2 note, addressing the transaction. “We like Nordstrom’s leadership in online and mobile execution, combined with innovative M&A. We also believe Nordstrom has a distinguished ability to creatively partner and negotiate with vendors across Nordstrom full-line and Rack [store locations].”

Finish Line Inc.

The athletic footwear and apparel retailer has been trying to find its bearings following a weaker-than-expected earnings release last week that drove down the company’s share price.

On the heels of slumping investor sentiment, the firm announced Thursday a new effort, dubbed “Epic Finish.”

The “movement” or “brand position,” as the company put it, has tapped hip-hop artist Big Sean and NBA forward Anthony Davis to drive interest.

“The Epic Finish position speaks directly to the attitudes and preferences of our core consumer surrounding the culture, innovation and style of sneakers,” Michael Grimes, VP of omnichannel marketing for Finish Line, said in a release.

Imran Jooma, chief omnichannel officer and EVP at Finish Line, added that the new branding would be “visible and integrated across all touchpoints.”

“This is an important moment in time for our brand. It’s not a campaign. It’s not a tagline. It’s an emotional connection point for our consumer to directly connect with the Finish Line brand,” Jooma said in a release.

Finish Line has pushed its omnichannel focus during the past year, hinging a lot of its earnings targets on its anticipated growth in that area of the business.

“Epic Finish,” the company said, reflects its “long-term commitment to exceeding the expectations of today’s millennial and Gen Z sneaker consumer through product, service and the overall omnichannel experience.”

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