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First Look: Kohl’s opens concept store with self-checkout, other new elements

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Kohl’s has unveiled a one-of-a-kind “concept” store designed to provide a more localized and modern shopping experience.

Located in Tacoma, Wash., the 35,000-sq.-ft. store is much smaller than a traditional Kohl’s, which averages about 80,000 sq. ft. and is “too large” for many small markets, the retailer said.    Kohl’s said the new Tacoma outpost is intended to give the retailer the opportunity to test (and learn from) new ideas and store experiences which may be used in new or existing locations in the future.

In May, Kohl’s revealed plans to open about 100 small-format locations during the next five years or so in markets untapped by existing Kohl’s stores. The expansion of the small-format stores follows a successful pilot of more than 20 smaller stores, the company said. Three additional small-format stores are set to open this fall, in San Angelo, Texas; Morgantown W.Va.; and Lenox, Mass.

“By introducing these smaller format stores, most at approximately 35,000 square feet, Kohl’s gains the flexibility to enter new neighborhoods while also providing a hyper-localized experience to cater to the community’s needs,” the company said.

Tacoma Concept
The Tacoma concept store features a strong focus on storytelling and curation to provide discovery and inspiration for customers. The space has a more modern, open look than a typical Kohl’s.

New fixturing, displays and shelving, along with product vignettes and the use of mannequins help provide a “solution-oriented” layout that guides customers and helps them find what they are looking for. It also has a flexible format, with flexible fixtures that can be changed seasonally or based on what customers are looking for.

Kohl’s has increased the number of mannequins throughout the store to provide customers outfitting inspiration.  The retailer pointed out it is using size and skin-tone inclusive mannequins (also rolled out in all 1,100-plus Kohl’s stores). It also is testing adaptive kids mannequins in the Tacoma location.

Additional features and elements of the Tacoma concept store are below.

QR codes: The home area is focused on delivering a product showroom experience. Product vignettes are located throughout the floor and customers can shop the entire vignette directly from their phone via QR code.

Checkout: The checkout has been moved to the side of the store (as opposed to upfront) so customers walk into a strong product vignette in the entryway.

Merchandising: Like categories are merchandised together. For example, in womens, casual apparel and activewear are all shoppable in the same area.

Localized assortment: Kohl’s is using information technology to create a highly-localized experience, catering the merchandise toward the active lifestyle customer in the Tacoma market by offering a more focused assortment of outdoor gear from such brands as Columbia and Eddie Bauer. (The company noted it is deploying a localization strategy across its store base — or example, stores in the South have swim year-round.)

Fixture design: Fixtures throughout the store have an overall more modern look. The displays and shelving are also updated with branding now at eye level.

Service area: A service area is located at the back of the store with customer service, Amazon Returns and self-pick up.

The Tacoma concept store also has the following.

  • Sephora at Kohl’s: The Sephora shop in the Tacoma store is one of the 400 that opened this year at Kohl’s. With 600 Sephora at Kohl’s shops are now open, the company is on track to open another 250 in 2023. Earlier this year, Kohl’s announced plans to bring a Sephora presence to all Kohl’s stores nationwide. 
  • Self-Service Capabilities: Self-checkout (which Kohl’s is currently testing in a handful of stores) is available, as well as self-pick up for online, which Kohl’s rolled out to all stores earlier this year.
  •  Discover at Kohl’s: Discover @ Kohl’s is a new feature that curates dozens of emerging, established, and diverse-owned brands that are new to Kohl’s, into different seasonal areas throughout the store in 600 locations.
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