The smaller stores have about 60 percent less space and 60 percent less inventory than a standard Kohl’s, the company has said. The build-outs are much less capital intensive, according to Mansell, and merchandise is curated to meet a local market’s needs, more so than it is at bigger locations.
At the East Windsor store, for example, Kohl’s had stripped out its Jennifer Lopez apparel collection and instead added more activewear for women and men, alongside a larger selection of denim. Some departments such as fine jewelry and electronics have also been removed, and the toys section is slimmed down to occupy only a few shelves.
“It’s a different beast” to operate smaller stores, Mansell said. But “we think we have a big idea.” And the next “natural evolution” for the 35,000-square-feet locations will be to move into more urban markets where a massive footprint wouldn’t fit, he said.
Checking out becomes easier in the smaller stores, with registers and fitting rooms all situated near the entryway. The aisles are noticeably wider, empty of any in-aisle displays, and the ceilings are higher. The stores also lack dividing walls once inside, making the space feel more open and making it easier for employees to reconfigure inventory as it comes and goes.
“It’s much more efficient for us. Way more efficient for us,” Mansell said at the East Windsor store. Keeping decor, feature fixtures and signage “bare bones … gives us a massive amount of flexibility,” he added. Unlike at its older locations, nothing really has to be permanent in Kohl’s smaller stores.