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Kohl’s Continues Casual Push With Cole Haan Collaboration

Kohl’s is hoping that yet another partnership is the answer to getting shoppers back in its stores and online.

Cole Haan is coming to 200 Kohl’s stores alongside an expanded assortment arriving at the department store’s website starting in spring next year.

The assortment of Cole Haan footwear will include styles across all categories, including casual, sport, dress and seasonal, with an emphasis on innovative casual lifestyle products. The styles will be across men’s and women’s shoes, with Kohl’s specifically highlighting the footwear brand’s lightweight ZeroGrand oxfords, casual loafers and flexible knit sneakers as part of the upcoming collection.

“Cole Haan will complement our current assortment of top national brands,” Doug Howe, Kohl’s chief merchandising officer, said in a statement. “We know customers look to Kohl’s as an accessible destination for great value and their favorite brands, and we’re proud to offer such a well-regarded and premium brand as Cole Haan as we continue to evolve our product portfolio and further establish Kohl’s as a trusted leader for the active and casual lifestyle.”

The introduction of Cole Haan is Kohl’s latest move to continue repositioning as “a leading destination for all things active and casual for the entire family,” capitalizing on the continued casualization shift that accelerated throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the summer, Kohl’s cut eight “down-trending women’s private brands” in favor of an offering geared toward comfort first, and recently introduced Lands’ End and Toms shoes earlier this fall, with plans to launch as many as 150 shop-in-shop boutiques for Lands’ End. Alongside the casual push, CEO Michelle Gass indicated in a second-quarter earnings call that the company would expand its athleisure mix with the increase its Champion offerings.

Last month, Kohl’s also expanded its partnership with Adidas by launching the athletic brand’s collection of active apparel, footwear and accessories for women designed with A-List actor Zoe Saldana.

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While athleisure and activewear categories now drive 20 percent of business at Kohl’s, Gass said during Goldman Sachs annual Global Retailing Conference in September that activewear can be at least 30 percent of the company’s business. Kohl’s will launch a new line next spring to “fully address the athleisure opportunity,” she added.

Kohl’s portfolio of national apparel and footwear brands also includes Nike, Under Armour, Columbia, Carter’s and Levi’s.

David Maddocks, brand president of Cole Haan, highlighted Kohl’s brands as a driver for the partnership. “As a leader in national brands, as well as innovation, customer service and technology, Kohl’s is an incredible retail partner for our casual lifestyle assortment,” he said. “We see this partnership as an excellent way to increase the accessibility of the Cole Haan brand.”

Kohl’s redesigned its e-commerce site at the end of August to “encourage discovery” while highlighting its portfolio of national and private-label brands. Although the company saw sales declines of 23 percent in the second quarter and recently announced it would cut 15 percent of corporate jobs, Kohl’s may be finding itself in the right direction due to the merchandise shift, according to Oliver Chen, luxury and retail analyst at Cowen.

“We do believe Kohl’s has promising long-term efforts in place to embrace and execute on casualization, active product and the attractive beauty category,” Chen said. “We also believe [stock keeping unit] rationalization or ‘doing more with less’ is a prudent strategy as long as the company chooses the right items to eliminate.”

Kohl’s still has a long way to go as an early holiday season kicks in and investors still remain skeptical about the company’s future. S&P Dow Jones Indices, the company that operates the S&P 500 stock index, officially removed Kohl’s from the S&P 500 starting Sept. 21.

Like Kohl’s, Cole Haan is trying to lean in on casualization as well through new partnerships, recently entering an unlikely collaboration with workplace communications platform Slack to create, design and launch a collection of limited-edition Generation ZeroGrand footwear styles.