Kohl’s Wants to Be the ‘Active Lifestyle Authority’ Via Nike, Adidas and Private Label Products

Kohl’s wants to go all-in on activewear.

At its annual investor presentation on Monday morning, Kohl’s outlined a plan to make the company the number one destination for activewear apparel. To do this, Kohl’s is leaning on partnerships with existing vendors, drilling into its private labels and strengthening its focus on the high-growth categories of athleisure and outdoor.

“Our mission is to be the active lifestyle authority for every family,” said Kohl’s chief merchandising officer Doug Howe during the company’s annual investor presentation on Monday.

According to Kohl’s, having strong relationships with key activewear leaders — including Nike, Under Armour, Adidas and Champion — is a key part of holding a strong position with consumers in a fast-growing category. In 2021, the retailer’s active business grew over 40% compared with 2020. In Q4, active sales increased about 25% compared to 2020 and 2019, across women’s, men’s and children’s apparel and footwear, representing about $4.4 billion in sales penetration.

As Nike dials back its business with certain wholesale partners, Kohl’s has remained confident in its partnership with the leading activewear brand, with CEO Michelle Gass calling the company’s relationship with Nike “terrific.”

“We have a great partnership,” Gass said. “They’re a key part of our kind of next chapter as we talk about our stores.”

Kohl’s also said it plans to open more than 100 new smaller-format stores over the next four years.

To promote the active category, Kohl’s said it would move activewear products to the front of its stores and expand assortment. Kohl’s also plans to invest more deeply in its outdoor business. For example, Kohl’s plans to expand the Eddie Bauer and Under Armour brands to all stores in 2022, as well as grow its business with Columbia Sportswear and Lands’ End.

In addition to popular national active brands, Kohl’s is strengthening its private labels such as Tek Gear and FLX. Having ownership of these collections allows Kohl’s to have more flexibility with how it prices these items.

“Active continues to play a key role in our sales growth,” said Gass in a call with investors last week. “We’ve been extremely pleased with the ongoing very strong growth there.”

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