Kohl's is moving into the health and wellness area. On Tuesday, the department store retailer unveiled a pilot program with WW — previously known as Weight Watchers — for an in-store WW Studio. Select Kohl's stores and Kohls.com will begin offering WW Healthy Kitchen products in June, and store associates can also gain subsidized WW Freestyle program memberships through the Kohl's Healthy Rewards program.
The first WW Studio this year will take up about 1,800 square feet inside a Chicago Kohl's store, "to host WW Wellness Workshops for local WW members, as well as a specially curated WW space for Kohl's customers and associates," according to a company press release.
The move follows the company's efforts to shrink store footprints, for instance by yielding space to minimalist grocer Aldi, and drive traffic, with efforts like Amazon concessions and returns in some stores.
Under CEO Michelle Gass, Kohl's is working to rationalize its store footprints and spike traffic with initiatives that at times are under-appreciated by many observers.
Its partnership with Amazon, for example, was met with skepticism by many who thought it was inviting in an enemy, but turns out the concessions and returns operations are driving customers to those locations, according to analyst research. The collaboration with WW, which has pivoted from a focus on weight loss to one of wellness, is also failing to get its proper due, according to Bob Phibbs, CEO of retail consultancy The Retail Doctor.
"What everybody has missed in the media about this is that Oprah Winfrey is the one who took over this company — she was the one who started saying, 'We have to rebrand as a wellness initiative,' and she knows her customers," he told Retail Dive in an interview. "And if you have Kohl's now saying these stores are too big, why not? Now they've also upped the idea — equated themselves with Oprah, so there's a halo effect, and now they get to say they were a partner in wellness, which is right on trend. It's a smart sway to cut up their stores and to say: 'we're going after that woman who wants to live well.'"
While Mindy Grossman in 2017 arrived from HSNi to take the chief executive role at WW, the company is now part-owned by Winfrey.
Like department store sector peers Macy's and J.C. Penney, Kohl's reported disappointing holiday results. But Phibbs and others said the retailer's recent initiatives are likely to carry it through. "We keep hearing about Kohl's being more innovative, but it's more than PR," Phibbs said. "While they didn't have the greatest holiday season, they're sowing the seeds for continued improvement. I expect only good reports on this."