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Kohl's Corporation ( ) is an Americanmarker department store chain headquartered in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsinmarker, a suburb of Milwaukeemarker. The company currently operates 1,059 stores in 49 states. Kohl's mission, as stated in store and online, is to be the leading value-oriented, family-focused, specialty department store. Based on 2008 revenue, Kohl's was the 24th-largest retailer in the United Statesmarker.

The company entered the S&P 500 list in 1998 and is also listed in the Fortune 500 (#152 in 2007).



Max Kohl, who had previously operated traditional grocery stores, built his first Kohl's supermarket in 1946, the first in what would become a southeastern Wisconsinmarker chain known as Kohl's Food Stores. In 1962, he started his first department store, Kohl's Department Store, in Brookfield, Wisconsinmarker. He positioned Kohl's between the higher-end department stores and the discounters, selling everything from candy to engine oil to sporting equipment.

In 1972 the British-American Tobacco Company's (parent of U.S. subsidiary Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co.) U.S. retail division, BATUS Inc., bought a controlling interest in Kohl's Corp., which at the time operated 50 grocery stores, six department stores, three drug stores and three liquor stores. The Kohl family, led by Allen and Herb Kohl, continued to manage the company. The family left the management in 1979, and Herb Kohl became a United States Senator and owner of the Milwaukee Bucks. The firm then expanded Kohl's presence from 10 to 39 stores in Wisconsin, Illinoismarker and Indianamarker. The grocery stores were sold to A&P in 1983, operating under the name Kohl's II, but the last of them were closed in 2003.


A group of investors, including the senior management, purchased the company in 1986, and the company added 27 more stores in the next two years. In 1988, the chain acquired 26 locations from Chicago-based MainStreet, gaining several stores in Chicago's suburbs, Minneapolis, Minnesotamarker and parts of Michiganmarker, the first of which opened its doors on January 15, 1989 in Roseville, Michigan. In 1992, the company went public and a period of expansion began. Kohl's entered mid-Atlantic markets in 1997 (opening in many former locations of Clover, an offshoot of the Strawbridge's corporation brand department stores in the Philadelphiamarker region); Texasmarker, Missourimarker and the Northeast in 1999 (the latter market resulting from its purchase of many former Caldor locations); Georgiamarker and the Southeast in 2001; New Englandmarker in 2002; Californiamarker and the Southwest in 2003; and the Northwestmarker in 2006. In April 2005, the company opened stores in Floridamarker and other Southern states.

Kohl's design office opened in January 2007, located in the heart of New York's garment district. The facility, located at 1359 Broadway, is the company's first product-design facility in the nation's fashion capital.

Existing stores are undergoing renovations to make them more modern and more like up-scale department stores. These re-modeled stores must be of a certain age and profit group in order to qualify for remodeling.

On October 13, 2009, Kohl's announced it was closing its oldest distribution center, located in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, in order to more efficiently service its expanding number of stores. The inventory from the Menomonee Falls distribution center will be moved to a newer distribution center in Ottawa, Illinoismarker.

Store design

The exterior of a typical Kohl's department store in Northeast Columbia.
Although some locations are in enclosed shopping malls, the majority of stores are free-standing.

Kohl’s operates differently from traditional department stores. The most noticeable distinction is that Kohl's stores have centralized checkout aisles, where a single line is used for check-outs. This has led many observers to consider Kohl's a hybrid of a department store and a mass merchandiser.

Kohl's also uses a "racetrack" aisle that circles the entire store, a technique borrowed from discount stores but rarely used in department stores.


Kohl's stores feature nationally recognized brand-name merchandise, exclusive labels, and private-branded goods, virtually the same merchandise mix as traditional department stores. The stores sell a variety of goods, such as apparel, shoes, and accessories for women, children and men, and home products such as small electronics, kitchen electrics, electric shavers, toothbrushes, vacuums & floor care, bedding, toys, and luggage. Kohl's exclusive lines include Candie's, Chaps by Ralph Lauren for Men, Women and Children, Simply Vera Vera Wang, Elle Contemporary Collection, Casa Cristina by award-winning TV personality Cristina Saralegui, American Beauty, Tony Hawk Apparel, Daisy Fuentes, Axcess, Bobby Flay, Abbey Dawn by Avril Lavigne that includes junior's apparel and accessories, LC by MTV reality star Lauren Conrad, Food Network-branded housewares and cookware and Dana Buchman. Kohl's private brands include Apt. 9, Sonoma, Croft & Barrow, Jumping Beans, Urban Pipeline, Moments, So... and Tek Gear. Some of Kohl's national brands include Nikemarker, Haggar, Dockers, Gloria Vanderbilt, Columbia Sportswearmarker, OshKosh B'Gosh, Carter's, Reebok, Adidas, Champion, Jockey, Asics, Goldtoe, Lee, l.e.i. and Levi's.

One hallmark of Kohl's marketing campaign is to end an advertisement with a punchline that violates grammar rules or makes up new words. Examples include: "Its delicious, Its delightful, Its delovely," and "The more you know, the more you Kohl's." Delovely in this instance is most likely not a reference to the movie of the same title, and the use of the name Kohl's as a verb.

Kohl's has been criticized for violating fair labor standards. For example, in November 2010 the company was added to the International Labor Rights Forum's Sweatshop Hall of Shame. ILRF 2010 Sweatshop Hall of Shame.

Online shopping

The company has had a World Wide Web presence since 1998 and has offered online shopping since 2000. The domain attracted at least 58 million visitors annually by 2008 according to a survey.


  1. Top 100 Retailers: The Nation's Retail Power Players (PDF), Stores, July 2009.
  2. Daykin, Tom. "1st Kohl's supermarket to be next Lena's." Milwaukee Sentinel June 14, 2002 [1]
  3. Milwaukee Sentinel 10-28-1972, p. 6, pt. 2

External links

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