Sketches from PopSugar at Kohl's.

Millennials have been a sweet spot for Kohl’s, and now the retailer wants more sugar.

The Menomonee Falls, Wisc.-based Kohl’s has hooked-up with Millennial-minded media platform PopSugar, which has a global audience of more than 100 million readers. 

PopSugar at Kohl’s, launching in September at 500 stores and kohls.com, will consist of elevated basics and fashion-forward styles that can travel from season to season. The collection will be another notch in the retailer’s portfolio of brands targeting the cohort, which has helped drive Kohl’s recovery from a long earnings slump.

“The collection has a framework of four key seasons with new monthly trend flows,” said Michael Gilbert, Kohl’s executive vice president of product development. “It will be fluid and responsive to keep the product exciting and engaging. This collection is part of our speed initiative, which has reduced our time lines by about 40 percent, taking months out of the process, which allows us to bring trends to market even more quickly. PopSugar is positioned to be our fastest, most responsive brand.”

Department stores have been hooking up with partners faster than single young men and women pair off at balls in a Jane Austen novel. Lord & Taylor will soon open a flagship on walmart.com; Sears is selling its Kenmore appliance brand on Amazon; Best Buy is teaming with Amazon for voice-shopping, and Walmart and Target are working with Goggle on voice shopping.

Kohl’s has already unveiled Amazon areas in stores that sell Echos, Fire tablets and other gadgets with the hope that shoppers who visit for Amazon will be enticed to buy apparel and home items.

“The collection is driven by tapping into PopSugar’s broad audience of Millennial women through propriety data analytics including search, social media and shopping patterns. That, paired with consumer, trend and market research, will bring together a combination of data, technology, storytelling and customer insights,” said Gilbert, adding that consumers will be able to weigh in on the collection’s direction and designs through audience impact via PopSugar.

“Kohl’s was a no-brainer as far as a great brand extension,” said PopSugar cofounder and president Lisa Sugar, who sets the platform’s sunny and optimistic tone. “From a brand perspective to internal company values, Kohl’s and PopSugar were aligned [in terms of]  wanting to talk to Millennials and make them feel happy and good about what they’re wearing.”

Both Kohl’s executives and Sugar declined to discuss sales projections. However, Sugar said when “we see styles that have been very popular over the years or seasonably or things popping right now [leveraged by] Kohl’s speed to market model, we can see the trajectory of this, that it’s going to be big.”

Like other department stores, Kohl’s had a Millennial problem in the Aughts; the problem was, the number of the generation’s shoppers entering its stores were declining. In the meantime, Kohl’s core over-35-year-old shoppers were addicted to coupons and steep value.

Longtime chairman, chief executive officer and president Kevin Mansell retired this month, succeeded by Michelle Gass, who joined the retailer in 2013 and has overseen areas such as marketing, e-commerce, merchandising and product development roles. 

The new brand will join our roster, appealing to Millennial women that includes LC Lauren Conrad, A:Glow maternity, Circus by Sam Edelman, Nike, Adidas, Converse, and Levi’s, among others,” said Greg Revelle, senior executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “The target customer is the Millennial woman, specifically the Millennial mom as we see an opportunity to draw more Millennial customers and women with young families to Kohl’s.”

Sugar said the line’s prices, $24 to $84, will allow consumers to buy multiple items and experiment. “There’s every day outfits and cute, fun tops at reasonable prices. We definitely looked at our audience and how often they went to Kohl’s. We want to resonate with an existing customer and also resonate with new ones. Our audience loves great items at great prices that they can live in. Anything under $100 is what they’re going to live in every day.”

Marketing will be an important element of the launch, with Kohl’s expected to give it a big in-store push and PopSugar pumping up brand recognition on its platform. “Our audience is large and we have a huge marketing plan that will appeal to a lot of customers,” Sugar said. “We’ve taken data and feedback of what trends are working and resonating with our audience.”

Asked about the popular theory that Millennials prefer to take part in events and moments over acquiring things, Sugar said, “Our audience loves experiences and still loves to shop. They come to us for [ideas] on how to wear items. There’s a huge shift in the [Millennial] generation. We’re going to make this a great experience and fun to shop.

“We have this large audience and editors who get access to stuff early and are at the runway shows and marketplaces,” Sugar added. “We’re combining data from the site with what the editors choose and translating that to product. We make them feel very welcome and make the content speak to them personally. We want them to pick up pieces and make them wearable and see themselves in the stories. We also do fun reach-outs to our readers,” referring to contests and polls.

Sugar said the company does analysis on the site to see what colors and looks are trending. “We do a lot of trend forecasting. We get insights from everywhere. We have our own database. On top of that, our editors are at runway shows and marketplaces.”

“We’ve always written about all shapes, sizes and price ranges,” she said, noting the 2 to 24 size spread of the Kohl’s line. “We have some standard-fare cute tops and fun jumpsuits that we infused with our personality with a cute saying or little icon stitched on the front. Sayings inside the clothes on tags, like ‘P.S. Be bold’ or ‘P.S. We (heart) You.’ They’re refined basics and they all have a little twist.

“We picked clothes that will fit a wide range of people and personalities,” Sugar said. “Our audience is just like our brand, it’s fun, playful and friendly. It’s like a fun night out.”

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