Doling out Black Friday deals earlier this year and adding an hour to store hours on Thursday has gotten Kohl’s (KSS) holiday season off to a good start, the retailer’s chief executive said on Friday.
Kohl’s, coming off a better-than-expected third quarter when comparable sales edged up 0.1%, launched some Black Friday deals for one-day only on Nov. 1 and then a new set of Black Friday deals online on Monday, three days before Thanksgiving. Those moves have apparently paid off.
Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s CEO, told Fortune on Friday morning that sales—and crucially, store visits—have been strong so far over this Thanksgiving-to-Cyber Monday weekend, and “well ahead of last year.” (Like other retailers, Kohl’s doesn’t provide quantitative results for intra-quarter periods.)
That squares with the comments of other retailers and of analysts, who say this is shaping up to be the best Black Friday in years.
“Leaning into customers’ desire to shop when and how they want is making their experience more seamless and that’s working,” said Mansell. “Staying open all night worked for us because the stores were busy through the nighttime hours and into today. It seems to be the right call.”
Kohl’s also opened at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, an hour earlier than it did last year.
The chain has struggled to return to sales growth in recent years, and Mansell has made doing whatever it takes to get people to physical stores paramount in his strategy.This in part explains the chain’s controversial move to test out handling returns for Amazon.com (AMZN) at about 80 of its 1,160 stores, in the Los Angeles and Chicago markets, beginning last month.
The results of those efforts are promising so far, Mansell said, cautioning that it is still very early in the experiment to draw conclusions. “That is really delivering on the objective we had, which is to drive people into stores and give them another experience they don’t get somewhere else,” the CEO said.
While Mansell expected shoppers to snap up home appliances and electronics (as they did), he said a positive surprise has been clothing, a category that has been tough for many retailers in the last year. Items by Nike, Under Armour and Adidas in particular lifted apparel sales, as did cold weather.
As for the upcoming Cyber Monday event, Kohl’s will tease some deals starting on Saturday to keep the momentum going.
And Kohl’s loyalty incentive, Kohl’s Cash, will play a big role in sustaining shopper interest for the rest of the holiday season, he said. Around Black Friday, Kohl’s offers $15 in “cash” on every $50 spent. This “cash” can be used on anything shoppers want— as a a gift card of sorts—but it has to be used relatively quickly, a strategy to spur repeat visits.
“If business continues to be strong the rest of this weekend, people are earning a lot more of Kohl’s cash and that puts us in a position in December to get them back into stores again,” Mansell said.
With five weeks to go until Christmas, that seems a wise move.