Kohl's poised to become one of region's biggest retailers

Kohl's poised to become one of region's biggest retailers

September 11th, 2011 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

John Red, with JDC Mechanical, cuts a piece of coping down to size Thursday for the upper facade of the Kohl's on Gunbarrel Road. That store has undergone a renovation, and the company has added two area stores.

Photo by Jake Daniels/Times Free Press.

Slated to open its third and fourth stores in the Chattanooga area later this month, Kohl's is poised to become one of the region's biggest retailers.

When new Hixson and Dalton, Ga., sites are added to existing locations in Chattanooga and Cleveland, Tenn., the Wisconsin retailer's presence in the area will rival other department store chains such as Sears and J.C. Penney Co.

Kohl's will employ more than 500 workers when the new stores are fully staffed. In addition to the two new stores, Kohl's is wrapping up an extensive remodeling of its store on Gunbarrel Road.

"The history of the company is that they've always reinvented or reinvested to make it bigger and stronger," said Stephen Epperson, assistant manager of the Chattanooga store.

Kohl's calls itself a family-focused, value-oriented specialty department store focusing on moderately priced clothing, shoes and home products.

The Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based company was incorporated in 1988 and went public in 1992 to help spur its growth.

Oscar Brock, property manager for The Fountains shopping center where Kohl's will open the Hixson store off Highway 153, said the company continues to do well even in the soft economy.

"They're making money, quarter after quarter, even in the tough times," he said.

Last year, Kohl's reported net income of $1.1 billion on sales of $18.6 billion. Net income was up from $991 million in 2009 and $885 million in 2008, according to the company.

Kohl's also continues to build new stores despite the jittery economy.

For the entire year, Kohl's plans to open about 40 stores, pushing the number of its units well over 1,100 in 49 states.

Erin Kelbe, a company spokeswoman, said Kohl's this fall will mark the opening of 30 stores and create about 4,000 jobs nationwide. About 30 percent of Kohl's sales occur in November and December.

Tammy Zumbrun, president of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's Hixson Council, said Kohl's shoppers in that part of Hamilton County won't have to cross the Tennessee River and drive to East Brainerd anymore.

"Hixson is getting a lot more diversity with shopping and retail," she said.

David Lowery, manager of the Hixson store, said the company will have about 130 workers at the unit built next to Academy Sports + Outdoors.

He put Kohl's success on the merchandise values it offers customers, along with service and its brands. Lowery said, for example, the company is launching Jennifer Lopez-Marc Anthony clothing lines, though the power couple may be splitting.

In addition to the new stores, the company said that remodels of existing sites are seen as key to its shopping experience.

At the Chattanooga store off Gunbarrel Road, workers performed a thorough refurbishing, Epperson said.

"Every wall has been touched. We've moved customer service up front to make it easier for shoppers. Every fixture has been touched," he said.

Epperson said some sales are expected to be siphoned away from the Chattanooga store by the Hixson unit, but the company is expected to gain in the long run.

He said if the Chattanooga store loses $4 million in sales, but the company does $16 million with the Hixson store, it gains $12 million.

"That's why there's a Walmart on every corner," Epperson quipped.