Kohl's Holiday Sales Christmas ShoppingLow prices: That's what's going to get registers ringing this holiday season at Kohl's (KSS), which is clawing its way out of a business slump.

So said Kevin Mansell, CEO of the 1,134-unit department store chain, at Goldman Sachs' retail conference on Thursday.

His comments come a day after the CFO of competitor Target (TGT) delivered the opposite message at the investor conference, vowing not to partake in the price wars during the Christmas shopping season.

By contrast, Kohl's will play up its lower-priced fare during the winter holidays, when it expects to see "the biggest acceleration in sales," he said.

Kohl's CEO Kevin MansellThe idea is to avoid a repeat of last year's holiday sales declines. It was a dearth of low-priced merchandise, as well as a weak gift assortment and poor presentation, that got the chain in trouble holiday 2011, Mansell said.

A Tough Year: Comeback In Store?

Kohl's holiday sales weakness continued into 2012. It has posted negative comp-store sales for much of the year, reflecting fashion missteps, too little inventory on the sales floor, and lackluster marketing.

But it turned a corner with back-to-school season, which was "very solid" for the chain, as it was for much of the retail sector -- a testament to a "resilient consumer," Mansell said. Sales rose 3.4% in August and 1.7% in July.

But Kohl's is not out of the woods just yet: Foot traffic in August "was still negative, but it was still the best performance we had all year," and sales-per-square foot lag historic levels, he said.

What's more, the retailer is still scratching its head as to how it can market itself distinctively from other retailers -- a necessary step if it's to drive sales higher. "That's remains a challenge," Mansell said.

Kohl's closest competitor is J.C. Penney's (JCP), which certainly made itself distinctive in the marketplace with its controversial -- and so far, unsuccessful -- move to eliminate sales and coupons.

When asked whether Penney's radical move has influenced Kohl's promotional strategy, Mansell said he didn't see his company following suit: Sales and coupons are a lifeblood of its business and spice things up for shoppers, he said.

"What we sell is very highly discretionary," Mansell said. The customer "doesn't need these things on a daily basis." In turn, sales keep them "motivated and engaged ... and create the demand," he said. "I can't imagine a scenario where that would change."

But although stores from mid-market Macy's (M) to low-priced Target and T.J. Maxx (TJX) have gained among customers alienated by Penney's "no sales" strategy, "Kohl's hasn't been the biggest beneficiary of that," Craig Johnson, president of the retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners, told DailyFinance. "There is a broader issue with the brand," he said.

Kohl's strategy to jump start the business includes strengthening its beauty and accessories assortments, and it's testing a new merchandising concept for them, said Mansell, though he declined to disclose details.

It will also beef up its line of exclusive collections from national brands and designers to draw in consumers used to having infinite shopping possibilities on the web. Among the upcoming offerings: Design Nation, an clothing line from Narciso Rodriquez.

"How do we get reconnected [to the customer] so we quit disappointing her?" Mansell said. By "getting her more engaged and giving her a unique experience."

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All of you need to go to Ebay and purchase Kohl's $10.00 coupons & then combine it with Kohl's extra 15,20&30% off coupons they have. Combine them together on a sale or clearance item. Use 1 $10.00 coupon per transaction. I've been doing it for years. I have a fantastic wardrobe and nice things for my home. Buying the $10.00 coupons, you don't have to go and spend $50.00 to get $10.00 in Kohl's cash. You've already walked in the store with several coupons for your shopping spree. And.......if you spend a total of $50.00 by using several $10.00 coupons, take all your receipts to customer service, show them you've spent $50.00 and they will issue you a $10.00 Kohl's cash certificate. Kohl's does not suck if you learn how to beat their system.

September 10 2012 at 11:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I pass a newly built Kohl's at least twice a day and the parking lot is never more than one quarter full. I say newly built, it's about two years old but even in season here in FL, it never seems to be overrun with traffic coming and going. Put another way, you will never see the police directing traffic at the entrance because of a "sale."
If this store folds up its tent, the corporate bean counters will say it was a weak market in the area, the economy, ineffectual brand positioning, structured wrong, poor marketing or whatever buzz speak they use to sugar coat the real fact is that they probably sell crap. My girlfriend, the Shopping Warrior, does not get excited about the place.

September 10 2012 at 8:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They can lower their prices all they want, as long as they only offer their major discounts to people who use their Credit Card, I won't shop there. One would think that they would rather collect cash on the spot and reward those customers...Not Kohls, they would rather further the american debt.

September 10 2012 at 4:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Kohl's is such a dump. No standards and a hateful business culture

September 10 2012 at 3:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Kohls will ignore you like they don't need you. They are dumb enough that every customer they piss off, they lose ten more with that customer and then they have to lower the price of their crappy stuff just to get one back, yea that is really smart. How can anyone compare that place with Macy's, you are talking about Macy's being a classy department store with very clean employees and classy as well.

September 10 2012 at 2:08 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

You get what you pay for. Kohl's sells crap. What do you get when some of the cloths that you buy are made in Pakistan. Their customer service stinks too, at least in our city.

September 10 2012 at 1:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Kohls lost me when I used a gift card to purchase something and they wouldn't give me the 20% discount everyone paying with a Kohls credit card could have. My son paid full price for the gift card for me.
Also, they charge a fee to return merchandise! Macy's treats me like a queen when I shop there.

September 10 2012 at 1:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

they have the highest prices in our town I stay away from them

September 10 2012 at 12:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've bought a lot at Kohl's the past few years. Yes, you have to have a Kohl's card to get the best prices, and I'll delay buying something until the sale price plus the bonus discount is where I want it to be. But I'm willing to do that because I'm on a tight budget. This fall however, I was in the store twice with my daughter. I'm 50, she's 18. Neither one of us could find anything we'd want to wear if they gave it to us. Really hope they get THAT turned around in a hurry.

September 10 2012 at 8:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jackie biz

I have found that if you have a Kohl's credit card, you are rewarded. You just have to shop smart. No, I don't work for Kohl's, but I have found that you get a much better deal when you take advantage of the mailed out coupons for up to 30% off, and combine them with the sale markdowns. And the Kohl's cashback thing, if you use it before it expires, it works great. I have had receipts that show me paying about 1/4th of the original price or less. Sure, it's not top of the line designer quality, but for people trying to save a buck, it's just fine. Kohl's coupons work for everything, including name-brands, like Levi's & Cuisinart, as opposed to places like Macy's that have so many exclusions hidden in the fine print!.

September 10 2012 at 7:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply