Kohl's is an American department store chain which targets consumers in the lower to mid-tier price range. The firm is headquartered in the Great Lakes region, just outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Lake Michigan. Founded in 1946 as a supermarket, the first Kohls department store did not appear until 1962. By 1973, there were 6 Kohls department stores when the family-owned company was sold to BAT (British American Tobacco company).
By 1986 there were 40 locations in the region (predominantly Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana) and BAT sold the chain to a group of investors led by Kohls upper management. Although the company had over 70 stores by 1992, it was still considered mostly a regional player in mid-west. With its expansion into Texas it took on two competitors, JC Penney and Mervyns, the latter being a regional player headquartered on the west coast which was owned by Dayton Hudson Corp out of Minneapolis (today named Target Corp..).
In 2003 Kohls expanded further, this time into the competitive but sizeable Southern California market. On March 7, 2003 Kohls did what was unheard of at the time. It opened 28 stores simultaneously on the same day. The move was a major blow to Mervyns which had its largest store penetration in this region. Just 5 years later, Mervyns would go out of business.
In 2006 Kohls expanded into the Pacific Northwest and by 2008 had opened almost 50 stores in the southeast part of the country.
Today, Kohls is the largest department store chain in the United States in terms of number of stores, with over 1,100. It passed its largest rival JC Penney in early 2013. In terms of sales, Macys is the largest largest department store chain (Note: The ranking is based on companies considered to be traditional department store chains).
The Kohls merchandise assortment has evolved over the years. While it does offer some non-exclusive brands, especially in activewear where brands like Nike and Adidas remain important, it has focused on its own private lables and well-known brands which it can offer on an exclusive basis. These include among others: Candie's, LC Lauren Conrad, Rock & Republic and Jennifer Lopez. Starting this Fall, Kohl's will be offering Juicy Couture in categories including juniors contemporary apparel, girls clothing, jewelry, shoes, watches and accessories.