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Kohl's Vera Wang Line: Why Don't They Talk About It?

Friday, 10 Aug 2007 | 8:38 AM ET
Source: kohls.com

It is the biggest launch in Kohl's history but the company does not want to discuss it. That was what Kohl's press person told me when I phoned to ask if there were any events planned around the September 9th launch of their first major guest designer clothing line. With the massive launch of the Vera Wang designed "Simply Vera" collection, you would expect that Kohl's would be backing up their bet on Vera with a media onslaught. But that's not the case.

That doesn't mean that the "Simply Vera" collection by Vera Wang will not be advertised. In fact, the company is allocating 5% of its fall advertising budget toward paying for marketing like a billboard in Times Square as well as t.v. ads and spreads in Vogue, Oprah and InStyle Magazine. "Free" exposure via the media, however, is not something that they're interested in. That struck me as strange. When Target or H&M launches a new guest designer line, they court press attention. Here is a department store shunning coverage of the clothing AND refusing to talk about the financials.

The only interview regarding the corporate strategy was granted to theWall Street Journal's Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan by Chief Marketing Officer Julie Gardner(subscription needed). She kept mum on the financial information. JP Morgan estimates that this year the line will account for around $150 million dollars in sales for Kohl's and it has the potential to become a +$500 million business over time. We'll see if consumers respond to Kohl's attempt to be more fashion forward and contemporary.

Wal-Mart's attempt to do so with its Metro 7 and Mark Eisen apparel lines resulted in a high-profile flop. (Is Kohl's trying to avoid the type of attention-getting launch that Wal-Mart staged with its fashion show/concert in the middle of Times Square?) BUT here's a big difference: Vera Wang is virtually a household name among female shoppers. She OWNED the couture and celebrity bridal gown market for a good stretch of time before she even thought of branching out to mid-level price ranges. Now she's doubling down on that bet and going mass market.

What's good for Vera and Kohl's is that Wang continues to design and show her exclusive high-end collections. We'll be covering her signature collection at the upcoming New York Fashion Week shows in September.

Anyhow, after many calls into the press office at Kohl's, I finally spoke with a press person who said "we're not doing any media about the launch because it is the biggest in our company's history." Interesting rationale and I'm not sure that she meant to convey nervousness in that statement but that's certainly what came through. That concern has also been whispered on Wall Street of late. We'll all just have to wait.

Questions? Comments? retaildetail@cnbc.com

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