What is Kohl’s Thinking?

A few weeks ago Kohl’s announced their Q4 earnings – for retail and online stores alike, this is the quarter that should soar, Kohl’s didn’t. They reported a measly 0.4 percent increase in comparable sales over the holiday quarter. This would not be good news, no matter what, but this also places them nearly $2 billion short of their 2015 year-end goal. They saw only a one percent sales increase for the year. The day they announced their 2015 Q4 results, stock (KSS) prices dropped 19 percent.

Clearly something needs to be changed. And early in February Kohl’s announced a big change – essentially they are getting rid of the PR and digital department. They let three executives go – their VP and chief digital office – Krista Berry, their Sr. VP for communications and PR – Bevin Bailis, and their Sr. VP for store environment – Paul Calderon. In such a situation, maybe heads did need to roll, but the Wisconsin-based retailer made it clear they are ditching the positions as well as the people. But can they really believe that’s a “good” change?

Frankly from our perspective, it’s a stunningly bad decision. In an age when PR shows its value for companies and brands at every turn, if digital and social media efforts are done well, proving their worth like its weight in rubies, Kohl’s decides to walk away from those efforts entirely. The logic defies!

Online Presence

On the other side of things, Kohl’s is almost exclusively known as a brick and mortar store, and in this online generation, that seems like a bad approach. They actually have “kohls.com,” where online shopping is available, but did you know about that? Have you seen or noticed them making any special effort to promote their online presence? Do you see them with a strong social media presence in branding and marketing? If you do, it’s more than we’ve noticed. A strong and effective PR campaign in social media might bring them much closer to their goals.

Those people probably weren’t doing a great job since those issues were not addressed, but this clearly seems more a case of throwing out the possibilities with the bad performers. If they really want to hit the goal numbers they’ve set for 2017, they need to amp up their PR, digital, and social media efforts. If they don’t know how to do that in-house, there are plenty of great PR firms specializing in consumer, branding, social media, and digital efforts to crank up the heat and get them moving forward faster. It is hoped that Kohl’s will rethink their strategy, and soon.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO of 5W Public Relations. 5WPR is a NY based PR firm with offices in Denver and Los Angeles.

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