Kohl’s teams up with Weight Watchers

Kohl’s just got a little help from Oprah Winfrey-backed WW to boost its health and wellness credentials.

The retailer struck a partnership with the rebranded Weight Watchers on Tuesday and announced plans to build a WW “studio” that hosts workshops and offers diet coaching.

It’s the latest creative deal from Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass designed to drive customers into stores.

Turning to WW

Kohl’s already shares a customer base with WW, and the tie-up may draw health-conscious shoppers in for 30 minute “wellness workshops.”

The hope for Kohl’s is that WW customers will stick around and buy Nike and Under Armour merchandise after their workshops.

The companies are starting with an 1,800-square-foot studio in a Chicago Kohl’s store later this year.

As part of the deal, Kohl’s will also sell WW-branded merchandise online and at select stores beginning in June, and Kohl’s employees will get access to WW programs. Kohl’s could expand the studio to more stores if the Chicago pilot succeeds.

A health ‘authority’

The move fits directly into Kohl’s strategy to establish itself as a hub for health and wellness brands.

Becoming “an authority” in health and wellness will help it stand out from department store rivals, said Christina Boni, retail analyst at Moody’s.

Under Gass, Kohl’s has focused more on selling workout and athleisure brands.

Kohl’s already has partnerships with brands like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour, and its “active” business made up 20% of sales in 2018. The company has started to sell Fitbit and Apple watches and partnered with brands like Vitamix and Sleepwell, too.

As part of Kohl’s efforts to become a leading active and wellness retailer, it is testing expanded floor space for top athletic brands at 30 stores.

“Active is here to stay. It’s part of people’s lifestyles. People are wearing active to work out. They’re also wearing it to run to the supermarket or the coffee shop,” Gass told analysts in November.

In the release Tuesday, she said Kohl’s was looking for new ideas that “support our customers’ health goals.”

Kohl’s is experimenting with shrinking the size of a handful of stores and leasing out the extra space to retailers.

So bringing Planet Fitness or another gym next door to Kohl’s could soon follow, analysts say.

Gass has pursued unconventional deals in the past.

She formed a partnership with Amazon to offer customers free returns at around 100 stores and opened Amazon mini-shops at 30 stores to sell Echo Dot and other smart devices.

That relationship has worked. “We’re really pleased with the pilot,” Gass said in November. “Customers love it.”