Exec says Amazon returns pulled 2 million into Kohl’s in 2020

Shutdowns, lockdowns and social-distancing have taken a big bite out of retailers’ profits over the last year.

Kohl’s department stores were no different, and this week executives announced the company lost $163 million in 2020 due to pandemic-related challenges. Total revenue was $15.9 billion, down 20 percent from the year before.

A big part of the problem once retailers were allowed to re-open has been finding some way to draw people back into stores.

Kohl’s found at least a part of the answer in its role as an Amazon return hub, with Amazon returns driving at least 2 million new, unique customers into Kohl’s showrooms in 2020, CEO Michele Gass said in a conference call with analysts this week.

Gass said the Amazon partnership is “accretive to both sales and profits,” but didn’t provide any specific numbers.

Despite the annual report’s grim numbers, Kohl’s executives and investors are bullish on the company, saying fourth-quarter numbers are a better indicator of the company’s financial health.

Fourth-quarter earnings totaled $343 million, up 29 percent from $265 million in earnings in the same quarter in 2019.

Part of the optimism also is based on upscale fashion and beauty retailer Sephora agreeing to shift its J.C. Penney store-within-a-store concept over to Kohl’s.

Six Kohl’s stores in Texas will open Sephora stores inside their department store locations this fall, with the closest one in Corpus Christi.

None of the Kohl’s locations in Brownsville, Harlingen, McAllen or Mission will have a Sephora store this fall, but Kohl’s executive say more than 850 stores eventually will have a Sephora shop inside by the end of 2023.

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