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Kohl’s Merchandising Makeover Draws Eddie Bauer

Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass has made no secret of her ambition to transform the mid-market chain into an “aspirational business” that draws in the covetable “millennial mom” market. A restructuring early last year that also reshuffled the merchant team aimed to “empower decision-making, reduce management layers, streamline communications and drive greater efficiency in many areas of our business,” Jen Johnson, a communications executive for the retailer, said at the time.

In the wake of those changes and the onset of an industry-shaking pandemic, Kohl’s has taken dramatic steps to meet consumers where they are, announcing notable tie-ups with well-known brands. And with its own private-label specialty athleisure brand FLX set to debut next month, Kohl’s unveiled one of the newest steps in its active-focused strategy Monday.

This fall, the retailer will start offering performance outerwear and outdoor apparel from Eddie Bauer.

The department store chain said it will sell a wide array of the outdoor brand’s merchandise —from a core collection of year-round products to seasonal selections—in up to 500 of its more than 1,100 stores. Kohl’s website, meanwhile, will offer “a deep, size-inclusive assortment” of Eddie Bauer pieces, including down jackets and parkas, performance bottoms, fleece, flannel and sleepwear. Items will be available in women’s, men’s and kids’ sizes.

“For more than 100 years, Eddie Bauer has been inspiring and empowering people to live their adventure, whatever that may be,” Damien Huang, president of Eddie Bauer, said in a statement. “Through quality apparel and gear that is built to last, and together with Kohl’s, we will expand our reach, increase accessibility and bring the benefits of the outdoors to more communities.”

Having already seen its active category double since 2013 to 20 percent of its business, Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass revealed last fall that the company plans to grow the segment to 30 percent of its business. As part of this strategy, she said the company is expanding its offerings from brands like Champion and Columbia, and expanding the retail space dedicated to activewear by nearly 20 percent.

“Eddie Bauer’s rich heritage of designing authentic, functional apparel that inspires everyone to get outdoors combined with their passion for delivering differentiated, innovative products that meet the needs of today’s consumer has made the brand a leader in the outdoor industry,” Kohl’s chief merchandising officer Doug Howe said in a statement. “The addition of the Eddie Bauer brand into our portfolio acutely aligns with our ambition to grow our active and outdoor business, and attract new and younger customers to Kohl’s.”

Last year, Kohl’s introduced partnerships with several national brands as part of its active push. In March, it announced it would begin offering seasonal goods like outerwear and swimwear from The Land’s End in 150 stores starting in the fall. Then, in October, the retailer revealed it would introduce casual, sport, dress and seasonal footwear from Cole Haan at 200 stores this spring.

Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.

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