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Kohl's Stores Undergo a Fashion Makeover in Bid to Take on Target

After the company's sale setback, Kohl's is pivoting toward inclusion, premier denim, and a whole new fashion attitude.

It's been over a month since Kohl's  (KSS)  turned down a takeover deal that would see Franchise Group  (FRG)  buying the retail company. Now, in an effort to redefine its everyday clothing image, the shop is switching gears from trendy juniors items to clothes for the everyday customer. 

Stock prices have been bouncing somewhere between $25-$30 a share since the sale. Will Kohl's plan to add premium denim brands to its racks be a part of the answer to company's woes?

According to Kohl's Chairman Peter Boneparth, Kohl's spoke with more than 25 companies before determining which company would be the top bidder. At the head of the race was the Franchise Group, which also owns The Vitamin Shop. But after the allotted time for "due diligence and financing arrangements" passed, Boneparth says the deal was a no-go. 

"Given the environment and market volatility, the Board determined that it simply was not prudent to continue pursuing a deal," he added.

Kohls Branding Takes A Shift

In the age of online ordering, clothing sales can be a catch-22. The convenience of door delivery has revolutionized just about every market out there. But for all the hassle of finding the right fit and fabric for your body, it's hard to beat an in-person shopping experience. 

Kohl's and Amazon  (AMZN)  recently made a move toward getting the best of both worlds when they began allowing people to accept and return their Amazon packages in Kohl's locations. 

It makes sense for Kohl's -- those who find themselves taking advantage of, say, Amazon's Try Before You Buy clothing service would be likely to shop around the store after returning unwanted items to Amazon. Since this move, some have even wondered why Amazon wasn't a bidder in the sale for Kohl's -- the relationship could be fruitful.

Kohl's Lead

Meanwhile, in-person retail competitor Target  (TGT)  has succeeded where Kohl's has struggled in the past. With a particular regard for its clothing lines, the company has teamed up with designers to offer tags with high-profile names like Anna Sui, Isaac Mizrahi, and more. The brand has also made great strides in making its fashion more inclusive by featuring a range of sizes and offering gender-affirming swimsuits and undergarments

Moves like these are helping Target establish itself as a favored brand among shoppers. And it's this kind of image that Kohl's wants to cultivate.

Kohl's Looks For A Fashion Makeover

In the past, Kohl's leaned into partnering with companies that saw big numbers in the juniors fashion circuit. 

Labels like Juicy Couture and Mudd were front-and-center when it came to exclusive Kohl's brand recognition. But now, the company is looking toward the future by focusing on adult fashions that prioritize comfort for all kinds of shoppers. Just before school shopping season, Kohl's is rolling out Discover @ Kohl's, a brand partnership featuring women-owned fashions and more inclusive fashion options

The store is also looking to cultivate its own voice in fashion by upping its denim game. Recently, Kohl's announced a new partnership with Levi Strauss  (LEVI)  that makes it the exclusive carrier of Levi's SilverTab jeans. And now, the store's increasing its high-profile denim offerings thanks to another partnership.

The Iconix International denim brand will join Kohl's in its radical rebranding. Kohl's interim chief merchandising officer Ron Murray was enthusiastic about the opportunity to work with Buffalo.

“Buffalo Jeans is the perfect addition to our denim lineup this fall as we look to provide more offerings that support our customer’s evolving casual lifestyle," Murray said. "The brand’s focus on creating craftsmanship-quality denim with unprecedented style is the perfect complement to our existing and new denim brands. We know our customers will love Buffalo Jeans’ assortment of premium denim in today’s latest styles, and will naturally become wardrobe staples this fall and winter.”

It looks like the world of Kohl's fashion partnerships is slowly expanding. Could this spell a revival for the store's image (and revenue)? Only time will tell. But while investors wait to see how the company will evolve, frugal fashionistas are eyeing these new denim offerings with hungry eyes.