The Menomonee Falls, Wisc.-based retailer today unveiled a partnership with the performance apparel, footwear and equipment brand, furthering its commitment to become “the active and wellness destination for families.”
Michelle Gass, chief merchandising and customer officer of Kohl’s Corp., said the deal with Under Armour marks “a memorable and significant moment for Kohl’s as we bring this incredible brand to our customers nationwide.
“We greatly admire what Under Armour has accomplished in creating a powerful and successful brand that has really changed the active industry,” Gass added. “This brand launch builds on other notable investments we’ve already made in our active business. We believe Kohl’s is uniquely positioned to celebrate the athletes and wellness enthusiasts in every family.”
Kohl’s revealed the launch the same day Under Armour unveiled plans to introduce a new brand, Under Armour Sportswear, or UAS, aimed at middle-market department stores like Kohl’s as well as other retailers. A Kohl’s spokeswoman said the retailer will not offer UAS.
The collection at Kohl’s will cover women’s, men’s and kids’, but should provide Under Armour a big boost in the women’s category, where it has lagged rivals such as Nike and Reebok. The majority of Kohl’s customers are female shoppers.
Gass said Kohl’s hasn’t launched “anything on this scale before. We’re always bringing in new brands and categories. To launch something as broad and big, with merchandising to marketing to visual planning — it’s big and it’s disruptive, and makes both companies really proud.”
Without giving any details, Gass said, “When we launch it, we’ll do some interesting things to make sure the customer sees it front and center. If you walk into a Kohl’s in the spring, you’ll know that Under Armour has arrived.”
Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s chairman and chief executive officer, in 2014 in the face of flagging financial results, set in motion a series of initiatives based on five pillars: amazing product, incredible savings, easy experience, personalized connections and winning teams.
Two areas of success for Kohl’s have been activewear and wellness. “Activewear was up 15 percent last year,” Gass said. “It’s now a $3 billion business” for the retailer.
Glass declined to project a volume figure for Under Armour’s first year at the department store, saying only, “It will be significant. Both Under Armour and Kohl’s have aspirations that this will be a very significant partnership.”
Gass said Kohl’s will offer “all the [Under Armour] brand and all of the categories.”
“Under Armour has a core competency in the [active] area,” Gass said. “They have such an authenticity to who they are and what they believe. The first meeting we had with them a couple of years ago, what struck us both is how closely aligned our values are to each other.
“Under Armour is empowering athletes everywhere,” Gass continued. “We want to empower our families. They have four pillars of greatness.”
Gass would not divulge the length of Kohl’s deal with Under Armour. “When you enter into a relationship like this, you’re in it for the long term,” she said. “We’re both really committed to creating a very big future for both of us.”
Under Armour isn’t providing exclusive product to Kohl’s. “Like what every brand does, they have certain things they give to Kohl’s and certain things they give to someone else.
“You’ll see Under Armour across every part of the store, including apparel for men, women and kids, footwear, accessories and health devices,” Gass said, adding that the retailer will launch a large marketing campaign to support the introduction.
Since 2014, Kohl’s has made a sizable investment in the active and wellness category, enhancing and expanding key national and private brands; acquiring notable brands and partners, and providing customers with an expanded assortment of products for the entire family.
“We’re ready to make some more big investments around active this year,” Gass said. “The balance of this year and well into next year, we have a number of new brand launches happening.
“We’ve been talking more and more about how we can support people in the way they move, eat and sleep,” Gass said. “We homed in on apparel and footwear, and looked at our portfolio of brands. For the last two years, we’ve been talking to a number of different brands. We introduced Gaiam and Fitbit, which is a $100 million business. Healthy sleep is doing phenomenal” business.
The retailer did “a fair amount of research and the Kohl’s customer clearly wanted Under Armour,” Gass said. “It’s a great fit.” Research showed that consumers would come to Kohl’s more often to buy more Under Armour.
“This, for Under Armour, is reaching a new customer with our penetration of families and penetration of women,” she said.
Kohl’s is at the start of the journey it’s embarked on, where it’s amplifying the presence of active and wellness; bringing in premium national brands; new beauty offerings; technology shops, and in certain locations, selling high-end kitchen products. It also has begun experimenting with different formats including, in the activewear category, opening freestanding outlet stores for its Fila brand, with plans to open 15 units this year alone.
“It’s all about building Kohl’s to be uniquely positioned to have many solutions and offerings,” Gass said.