Some stores will even be turned into WW health studios.

By Phil Wahba
January 29, 2019
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Kohl’s has weathered retail’s big storms better than many peers by betting big on activewear and wellness. Now the department store chain is going further, announcing on Tuesday a partnership with WW, known as Weight Watchers until last fall.

Kohl’s will test 1,800 square-foot WW Studio spaces within some stores in greater Chicago. That includes hosting the company’s workshops on health, wellness, and weight control. Later, Kohl’s will sell WW Healthy Kitchen products such as its kitchenware and cookware.

For WW, the deal has the potential to vastly expand its physical presence and make it visible in new markets. Both companies see an overlap in their customers, bolstering the logic of the test.

“We know the Kohl’s customer is also our customer, so offering our workshops through a WW Studio at Kohl’s is a new way for us to meet people where they are,” said WW Chief Executive Mindy Grossman in a statement.

The partnership is the latest struck by Kohl’s to make better use of store space than just a place to display and sell merchandise. Reinventing its stores makes sense, given how big Kohl’s e-commerce business has become.

In 2017, Kohl’s began a partnership with Amazon.com to handle returns for the online giant, starting at about 100 stores. The retailer also has in-store Amazon shops selling the online retailer’s devices. The goal of that partnership has been to increase shopper visits, as Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass told Fortune in a recent profile.

The WW collaboration is consistent with that strategy to help it to survive retail’s massive transformation.

Kohl’s, unlike mall-based rivals like Macy’s and J.C. Penney, has not closed stores in any great numbers. It sees its stores as nodes to speed up digital commerce and as services centers.

Kohl’s has about 1,150 stores. The company has reported a modest increase in comparable sales over the recent holiday season, adding to the pressure to keep trying new things to get people into stores.

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