Kohl’s will begin selling the Apple Watch just in time for the holidays starting on Nov. 15, placing the gadgets in its activewear and wellness departments, rather than in its electronics departments, Fortune reports.
Macy’s, Target, Best Buy and others also sell the product, which is generally sold along side other electronics. Macy’s is also poised to open an Apple store at its Herald Square flagship in New York City, becoming the the first department store to house an Apple shop-within-store.
Kohl’s has struggled to gain traction in its turnaround, despite deep loyalty from customers. Its second quarter results included some hope, though same-store sales declined 1.8%, its second straight quarterly decline, missing an analyst forecast of a 1.7% fall. But that was a generally favorable report, which included lower inventory levels that helped boost gross margins to 39.5% from 38.9% in the year-ago period.
One of Kohl’s advantages against rivals like Target, which carries mostly its own private-label brands in home goods and apparel, is that, like T.J. Maxx and J.C. Penney, it offers well-known and even some higher-end brand names at lower prices. Now that merchandise includes Under Armour, American Girl and Apple. However, Michelle Gass, Kohl’s chief merchandising and customer officer, in an interview at the retailer’s design center in New York City, told Fortune magazine that the revamp of its Sonoma private label apparel brand is doing well.
The retailer has also succeeded immensely in moving its loyalty program onto mobile, and last month it further bolstered its app by adding a mobile payment feature. Shelley E. Kohan, VP of retail consulting at store analytics firm RetailNext, calls the membership program “brilliant.”
“There’s something about the ‘Kohl’s cash’ that drives the consumer to really plan their shopping around their Kohl’s cash,” Kohan told Retail Dive earlier this year. “People are spending so much effort and time in converting, they have a strong bond with the customer and are known for that low price.”
But there are often too many “pain points” shopping at Kohl’s that can be discouraging for customers, Kohan said, nodding to the poorly organized design of some stores and the lack of knowledge on the part of some of its store associates. The idea of putting the Apple Watch, which is favored by the same types of consumers that use the FitBit, in the fitness departments is innovative, but Kohl’s must ensure that those displays are enticing.
The Watch partnership could be good for Apple, too, by providing the retailer with a new swath of middle-income shoppers. Despite generally good reviews, the Watch has failed to catch on with consumers. In its most recent quarter, Apple’s strengths were found in its App and Music services more than in its device sales.
“In particular the Apple Watch, while a triumph of engineering, has simply not become a mass market product in the way that the iPhone, iPad, or iPod did,” retail analyst Neil Saunders, CEO of Conlumino, wrote in a note emailed to Retail Dive last month.
This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2016 holiday shopping season. You can browse our holiday page for more stories.