Kohl’s Corp. will start selling Calvin Klein men’s underwear, women’s intimates and loungewear next fall, adding to the retailer’s string of recent big-name brand introductions to its assortment.
In 200 of the stores, the Menomonee Falls, Wisc.-based promotional department store chain is creating “elevated in-store and merchandise experiences” to spotlight the brand and its modern, minimalist aesthetic. The product launch includes several of Calvin Klein Underwear’s best-selling hero programs, including the Modern Cotton and Invisible Comfort collections. The assortment will also feature CK One underwear and loungewear.
Kohl’s has been building up its active and casual businesses with such mainstays as Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, Champion and Columbia. Recently the assortment of national brands has grown to include Lands’ End, Toms and Cole Haan, while a private-label athleisure brand, called FLX, is debuting this month. Kohl’s is also launching 2,500-square-foot Sephora shops inside 200 of its doors in the fall. Sephora at Kohl’s will be merchandised with more than 100 makeup, skin care, hair and fragrance lines.
Kohl’s wants its active and outdoor categories to eventually represent 30 percent of the chain’s total volume, from the current approximately 20 percent. For 2019, Kohl’s reported $19.97 billion in total volume. While adding several high-profile brands, Kohl’s has also been culling underperforming ones.
The deal with the Calvin Klein brand, which is owned by PVH Corp., furthers Kohl’s drive to become a more dominant destination for active and casual apparel in the moderate price range. Kohl’s recently added Lands’ End, and for fall is adding Eddie Bauer, which is well-known for its outerwear.
“We are pleased to bring the highly recognizable Calvin Klein brand to Kohl’s customers nationwide with the addition of Calvin Klein basics, intimates and loungewear,” said Doug Howe, Kohl’s chief merchandising officer. Howe characterized Calvin Klein, which was founded in New York in 1968, as “a global lifestyle brand that exemplifies bold, inclusive ideals and an elevated aesthetic while offering unmatched quality and accessibility, which we believe will resonate with both new and loyal Kohl’s customers.”
With Calvin Klein, Kohl’s could gain some market share from Macy’s, Nordstrom and other major retailers that carry the label.
Kohl’s has established an impressive track record of merchandise advancements as well as some innovative partnerships, such as with Amazon. Kohl’s stores enable shoppers to return Amazon orders.
But Kohl’s could be put off track by activist investors — Macellum Advisors, Ancora Holdings Inc., Legion Partners Asset Management and 4010 Capital — which have begun pressuring the company for changes and last week came out in public with its concerns about the retailer. The activists have accused Kohl’s and its management of not gaining market share in the last decade, lacking cost controls, not creating enough shareholder value, and excessive executive pay. The activist investors have begun pushing to change Kohl’s board members and for real estate selloffs. The investors beneficially own 9.5 percent of the company, or 15 million shares, including 3.5 million call options that are currently exercisable, meaning they have significant clout.