Kohls opened 46 stores today. Forty-six grand openings in 19 states in one day. In many locations there were Black Friday size crowds, with lines of shoppers winding around the buildings before dawn. Buried somewhere in today's simultaneous turbo growth explosion the 1000th Kohl's store opened its doors. Then within minutes the 1001st, 1002nd, and 1003rd opened too. It was a big day for Kohl's.
The interesting thing about this day in Kohl's history was reading the press releases about it. The obvious story angle of the retail phoenix rising from the economic meltdown ashes was ignored. Instead, the company's PR efforts went green. Forty-five of the newest Kohl's stores have met the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED standards for environmentally friendly buildings. Kohl's did everything it could to make sure America's shoppers knew that. Instead of focusing on how much green it had in its bank account, Kohl's wanted shoppers to focus on how much green it had in its buildings. It was a brave day for Kohl's too.
Kohl's could have done a lot of different things with the positive spotlight that was pointed at it today. Its direct competitor, Mervyn's is in the process of closing 15% of its chain in order to turn the page in its Chapter 11. J.C. Penney's heavy back-to-school promotion of its new Dorm Life brand yielded a 4.9% decrease in sales. But Kohl's chose not to focus on the financial side of its own business or that of its competitors. Thank goodness somebody is finding something else to talk about.
The green message that Kohl's delivered today wasn't chosen randomly, and it wasn't chosen last week. Kohl's has been working on its green initiatives for years. It now has the largest group of retail buildings with an Energy Star label for superior energy efficiency and environmental performance. And while Kohl's can't compete with WalMart on many levels, it has beat out that retail behemoth on a solar level. Kohl's is also now the largest retail host of solar power, and its distributed solar program is the largest in the world among retailers.
In every green-related press release that I have seen Kohl's issue, it makes sure to remind consumers and stockholders that it is "a family-focused, value-oriented specialty department store." Kohl's tells us it has values, and then takes action to prove that it does. How refreshing! If asked what the difference is between Mervyn's and JC Penney, I would be hard-pressed to come up with a definitive answer besides the size of their stores. But today's marketing messages, consistent with those issued over the past year, have firmly positioned Kohl's in my mind as a truly green retailer.
Most businesses that are tooting their own green horn these days seem to mostly be interested in the publicity they can get from posing as green with superficial green gestures. Conversely, Kohl's used a legitimate publicity event today to push an authentic green agenda. I feel like Kohl's deserves one of those Mastercard commercials in recognition of its efforts.
Cost of opening 46 stores in a single day: huge.
Risk of doing it in a crumbling retail economy: enormous.
Cost to employ renewable energy sources in 75% of your retail chain: gigantic.
Value of earning genuine respect for putting your values into action: priceless.
For everything else there's the other store. What was the name of that place that used to be across the street?