- Kohl's is set to launch k/lab, a new collection aimed at stylish urban millennials that leverages fast-fashion notions such as quicker time from initial concept to delivery from suppliers, according to Business Insider.
- The prices for k/lab clothing are expected to range from $28 to $78, with shirts and skirts starting around $28 to $58, dresses and pants ranging from $58 to $68, and jackets at the high end of the overall price range. Wholesale orders for the items will start in low quantities, with the flexibility to ramp up or down as item popularity changes.
- The k/lab collection initially will launch in 21 stores, and will be placed and promoted in separate displays from other collections to stand out. Online, the collection will get its own landing page separate from other sections of Kohl's flagship website.
Like a lot of department stores, Kohl's has had its earnings swinging up and down in the past year, and its push to appeal to urban millennials seems like an attempt to unlock new sales by broadening its horizons. This can work, but it can also be a stretch for a longtime family-focused department store to start acting like one of the cool kids.
Seeing more customer dollars migrate from well-known brands and long-standing clothing lines to so-called fast fashion collections has been a hardship for many retailers, not just the department stores, but also dedicated contemporary clothing stores like J.Crew that seemed to be part of the zeitgeist not long ago. For retailers that haven't done fast fashion before, there is a definite allure, but they need to understand what they are getting into, and how to execute major changes before they make the leap.
The "trend" team behind k/lab sounds like it will be scouring social media to determine what designs are hot and what kind of clothes it should be selling through the new line, and then moving quickly to get them into the production pipeline, which again sounds like a stretch for a retailer like Kohl's, which typically works with suppliers on long production and delivery schedules.
Having said all that, if k/lab is truly successful, it could completely reshape Kohl's identity as a retailer. Rival merchants have been taking some of their own drastic steps to reinvent themselves. J.C. Penney has started to have some success pushing an omnichannel agenda, while Macy's is in an earlier stage with its own makeover process, but it's clear that the old-line department store retailers are trying to do what they can to recast themselves.