Features, Trends

Kohl’s Returns to Manhattan

One thing you can guarantee, put a pop-up in New York City, and they will come. In droves, actually. Kohl’s came to town, albeit briefly, to showcase some of its holiday gift suggestions and festive clothes. An attractive street of shops with nostalgic holiday storefronts greets you as you enter the space. The weekend promotion offered lots of incentives for influencers and shoppers to visit the place, not the least of which was complimentary chestnuts pre-roasted over an open fire and decadent hot chocolate served in a cup rimmed with crushed candy cane, topped with whipped cream, served with a climate-correct red and white striped paper straw and garnished with a candy cane. That hot chocolate would propel even the most apathetic shopper into a turbo deal seeker.

Curated Holidays

The pop-up storefronts housed a few of Kohl’s newest and most prestige brand partnerships. And there was every reason to visit the mini boutiques to choose the perfect gift for yourself. Elizabeth and James had a high-tech embroidery machine customizing T-shirts. If you stood online, you’d be paid off with a hand-calligraphed ornament at Scott Living. Jason Wu’s red flower-filled space gave away fresh bouquets and Lauren Conrad offered chocolate truffles. And you could walk the runway with a digital facsimile of Vera Wang and walk home with VW branded popgrip for your smart phone. There was a more modest area for wish-list gifts, curated by Kohl’s including small appliances, cookware, jewelry and toys among its eclectic mix of gift possibilities. There was also a lounge upstairs for weary shoppers to rest awhile with that hot chocolate and a flat screen broadcasting sports for the men. The other Kohl’s curated beauty and apparel product areas on the second level looked abandoned; it helps to create an environment, not dump products onto a sales floor without a thematic design.

Tech Talk

So, what’s so special about another pop-up? Well, you could win Kohl’s cash to use in purchasing any of the merchandise in the pop-up, coupled with a 15 percent discount and free shipping. It’s delayed gratification, because all the merchandise in the pop-up were samples in a showcase. In today’s new tech-and-touch paradigm, customers use their smartphones to log onto the Kohl’s app to order their preferred gifts online and have them delivered two days later. The beautiful Jason Wu bright red dress with a ruffle descending the left shoulder was selling briskly – at $50 combined with Kohl’s cash and the discount, how could you not indulge? The friendly and well-informed hosts (all from a local agency) were helpful and accommodating, explaining all the details in their branded boutiques. Everyone was equipped with a touchscreen to facilitate frictionless purchases.

Long Distance Relationship

Sometimes you don’t have to be there to have a sense of being there. Through a partnership with Snapchat, customers could use an AR portal lens to put themselves in the pop-up virtually, walk through the space and buy the products online. Being there via AR to window shop in New York City for that red dress was the next best thing if you live in Sheridan, Wyoming.

Kohl’s Strategy

Anyone can do a pop-up. Kohl’s has made a point of visiting New York for pre-holiday buzz. The street of shops is their fourth foray and is particularly successful because it creates a cohesive environment, not a pop-up plunked down in the middle of the Oculus, for example. According to Julia Fennelly, Director of Corporate Public Relations at Kohls, “We were excited to bring this shoppable pop-up to New York City — a market with significant foot traffic that presents an opportunity to reach new customers during the holiday season. Engaging experiences like this provide a great backdrop for capturing and sharing social media-friendly content and to showcase our portfolio of new and existing brands.”

There’s something to be said for creating an ersatz old-fashioned holiday stage set to get you in the mood for the eventual holiday assault two weeks away. In terms of creating a cohesive environment, the branded boutiques were engaging, the Kohl’s curated sections, on the other hand, looked a like afterthoughts without the same attention to detail in creating a welcoming shop. Opportunity missed, as most of the customer attention was focused on the branded boutiques, presented by designers most savvy New Yorkers know and love. And oddly, it was jarring to see a 64-page old-fashioned paper circular shouting out discounted deals for Black Friday, dating the stylish high-tech metaphor with a utilitarian approach to marketing, which, honestly, doesn’t seem on-target sensibility-wise adjacent to a Vera Wang shop. Some habits die hard. In any case, Kohl’s came in with a breath of fresh air and vanished a few days later to live on forever on the internet, our new digital reality.

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