- Kohl’s cut 60 jobs from its corporate technology ranks as it seeks to gain efficiencies by increasing automation, according to Retail Info Systems (RIS).
- This restructuring of the technology team and operating model at the chain’s Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, headquarters involves migrating most tech platforms to the cloud, Kohl’s spokesperson Jen Johnson told the Milwaukee Business Journal.
- The decision, which was announced this week, comes as Kohl’s has been moving forward with various tech initiatives, including cloud technologies, new retail concepts at the retailer’s 58 Your Store labs, personalized marketing and inventory management, RIS reported.
The good news for the technology workers laid off from Kohl’s is they likely won’t have a hard time finding new jobs in retail. Across the industry, retail companies are adding tech workers to meet the demands of a tech-savvy customer base, the growth of e-commerce and the competitive pressures from tech giants like Amazon.
Kohl’s follows another Midwestern retail chain, Meijer, which cut 400 in-house IT jobs last year. In neither case does it mean a decline in the company’s fortunes — Kohl’s also reported earnings that beat analysts’ estimates for the quarter — or a diminished commitment to technology. Meijer outsourced some functions and restructured others, while Kohl’s is reallocating resources mainly to cloud technology and to automation.
"All major lines of business reported expense leverage except IT where we're making deliberate investments in the cloud and other technology initiatives to drive future efficiencies and growth," Kohl's CFO Bruce Besanko said during the second quarter earnings call last week, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.
The overall increase in retail tech jobs was reflected in a study by LinkedIn, which showed that the number of people identifying as retail associates on their profiles declined 41.4% from 2013 to 2017, while the number in engineering and IT jobs rose from 7% to 9% in that time span, and "software developer" became the third most popular job title in retail in 2017, up from a ranking of eighth in 2013.
Amazon is adding thousands of tech jobs this year – 2,000 in Boston, 3,000 in Vancouver, British Columbia, and 200 in Minneapolis. Walgreens is adding 300 tech jobs in Chicago and is planning a big tech office in a downtown Chicago landmark, the Old Post Office Building. The decision is thought by some as intended to attract tech workers. Home Depot is adding 1,000 technology employees. Kroger has been named to Computerworld's "Top 100 Best Places to Work in IT" for 2018. And the Walmart Labs careers website page recently listed over 400 openings for technology positions in California, Arkansas and other locations across the country.
Kohl’s has many technology projects in its pipeline. In the earnings call, CEO Michelle Gass said the retailer’s personalized marketing effort is designed to drive traffic and conversion "by having our customer see the right message at the right time, in the right place in response to their preferences."
A Smart Cart program incentivizes customers with Kohl’s Cash to pick up online orders in-store rather than having them shipped to residences, she said. The company plans to expand its Buy-Online-Ship-to-Store program to the entire chain from 20 stores. In 58 Your Store labs, which are based on technology and analytics, the chain is testing concepts such as mobile checkout, wayfinding, in-store lockers for online order pickups, merchandising and staffing concepts, store layout changes and store manager tools. There are also plans to test a new customer service center model in two stores this year.