Is Kohl's Going Upscale?

Department store remodeling about 100 stores across country

Remodeling projects at a department store known for great values is leading is making some wonder if the company is trying to become more upscale.

Kohl's is giving makeovers to about 100 of its stores this year, 18 percent more than in 2010. Two stores in North Texas are among the remodeled locations, including the Hulen Kohl's in Fort Worth.

University of Texas at Arlington professor Traci Freling, an expert in consumer behavior, said that it appears the chain is trying to become less like Marshalls and more like Macy's.

"I think that's more of a repositioning strategy that's going to be real difficult to achieve," she said.

Some of the remodeled stores' changes are simply cosmetic, such as better lighting, wider aisles and lower jewelry cases to improve the view to the back of the store as customers enter the front door.

"Our customer is known as 'she,' and we want her to come in here and be able to find everything she's looking for, find it easily and have a great shopping experience when she's here," said Christina Jordan, manager of the Hulen Kohl's.

Other changes introduce a whole new way of shopping at the store, including a dedicated area for teenage girls.

"Junior girls, they like to stay in one spot, shop in one spot, hang out in one spot together, and we've provided that for them," Jordan said.

But Freling said the move is risky.

"It seems as though some of the changes that they're making are actually less about the aesthetics of the store and more and more about the image of the store," she said.

"I don't know that's it's going to be something that consumers accept as believable, if all of a sudden this is ... supposed to be a more upscale store, so I think that it's going to be a bit of a gamble for them," Freling said.

Loyal customers can spot some of the new changes as soon as they walk in the door.

"It's beautiful," said shopper Judy Long. "I love it. It's laid out better, the dressing room's better. It's great."

In addition to the Hulen store at 5520 Southwest Loop 820, Kohl's also remodeled its Flower Mound location at 2501 Cross Timbers Road.

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