Kohl's on Wednesday said it will eliminate about 250 jobs, including "regional store leadership roles and positions, restructuring teams in our merchant organization, and changes to other positions in our corporate offices."
The cuts are part of a restructuring of the business to "a more customer-centric focus and position Kohl's for long-term success" and also to create "a more agile and empowered organization to support our long-term sustainable growth," according to a statement from the company emailed to Retail Dive.
The effort seems aimed at cost cuts, as the company said it wants to "empower decision-making, reduce management layers, streamline communications and drive greater efficiency in many areas of our business." But the statement also emphasized that "Kohl's is in a position of financial strength," isn't closing stores or corporate offices, and is continuing to hire "in key areas" and "invest in many areas of the business including our stores, technology and strategic growth initiatives."
It wasn't that long ago that Kohl's seemed to operate slightly above the fray in the department store segment, running stores in strip-style centers rather than struggling malls, and partnering with Amazon and others to leverage store space and drive traffic. The retailer has also retooled its private labels and brought in emerging brands.
Now the retailer appears to be aiming for a reset, though perhaps not one as drastic as Macy's, which has plans to shutter 125 stores in the next three years, shift some store locations to the kind of shopping centers where Kohl's is found and revamp its private labels.
As recently as last month, CEO Michelle Gass said that the company's Amazon returns partnership, now in all stores, is not only driving traffic, but also adding sales, including from customers who hadn't shopped there in the previous year. Independent research backs that up, at least to some extent. In an analysis done before the Amazon partnership was expanded to all locations, Earnest Research found that participating Kohl's stores in Chicago saw revenue growth top 10% in 2018, compared to 5% at non-participating stores. Additionally, new Kohl's customers in the participating Chicago stores rose 9% in 2018 compared to 1% for non-participating ones.
But the department store had a tough third quarter, and the holidays didn't help much. Third quarter revenue and profits declined, while comps increased but missed expectations. November to December holiday comparable sales fell 0.2% year over year, which led Kohl's to lower its full-year guidance.
The troubles of 2019 are likely to continue into this year, according to a January client note from Wedbush. Those analysts, led by Jen Redding, "see price sensitive consumers as likely taking advantage of discounts driving traffic," with inventories and promotions running higher than planned in the last months of the year.