Kohl's Corp. is adding its first design studio on the West Coast, while doubling the size of its design office in New York.
The moves underscore how serious the midbrow department store chain is in its commitment to expanding and improving its exclusive brands, which now account for 51 percent of its total revenue.
"The investment reinforces our commitment to offering world-class brands at compelling value to our customers," said Kevin Mansell, Kohl's chairman, president and chief executive, in a statement.
The chain, based in Menomonee Falls, Wis., says it will open on Monday a design studio in Santa Monica, Calif., which will host a team of 20 trend and graphic arts professionals. The staff will be reporting on trends from California while also working on a variety of the store's brands.
The company's design studio in New York, located near the Garment District, will double in size to 100,000 square feet by 2014. It currently houses 140 designers, but Peggy Eskenasi, Kohl's senior vice president of product development, said that number could nearly double to about 250.
Kohl's opened its original design studio in January 2007. Back then, the team worked on just a handful of exclusive brands including Simply Vera Vera Wang, Elle and Food Network. The chain now has expanded that portfolio to include more than a dozen exclusive brands including Dana Buchman, FILA Sport and Candies. Last fall, it launched the Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony collections, which featured such items as $69.99 platform shoes and $70 wool ponchos. This spring, Kohl's will be unveiling an exclusive collection under the Rock & Republic label as part of a licensing agreement with the brand's parent company, VF Corp.
Like many department stores, Kohl's has been expanding its portfolio of exclusive brands to differentiate itself from rivals.