Kohl's incoming CEO said she wants to take things slow. "For now, let's walk before we run," Gass told CNBC when asked about the retailer's future with Amazon.
From an operational standpoint, Kohl's has already shown it's keen to making upgrades within its stores ahead of Wednesday's launches in Los Angeles and Chicago. A new small-format location in Cincinnati, for example, features a centralized checkout near the store's entrance — placing shoppers in a single line ahead of registers — along with a redesigned kiosk for online ordering.
Kohl's shares have fallen roughly 12 percent since the start of the year, but that's a far cry from the declines logged by some of its peers, like Macy's, which has seen its stock sink more than 44 percent over the same period.
"Kohl's struggles like all department stores, but I would certainly say they've moved forward from where they were a year ago," GlobalData Retail managing director Neil Saunders told CNBC. "They're trying to drive customer traffic to stores, and the Amazon deal is the latest example of that."
Kohl's has been testing other new initiatives, like entering a partnership with Under Armour to sell the sports apparel company's merchandise. Management said on a conference call in August that it's beginning to see benefits from inventory management and cost-cutting efforts.
"Under Armour in particular continued a very strong performance and beat the sales plan across almost all categories," Mansell told analysts and investors. "We've gained significant share in active apparel and footwear in the first half of the year and expect that to continue in the back half based on assortment improvements and our momentum."
The problem for Kohl's still, according to Saunders, is that the retailer's brand image "isn't as powerful as it should be." When asked what Kohl's stands for, he said, most U.S. shoppers would likely pause and say: "I'm not actually sure."
These are the first 10 Kohl's stores, out of 82, to handle Amazon returns:
- Bucktown, 2140 N. Elston Av., Chicago, IL 60614
- Harlem-Irving, 4220 N. Harlem Ave., Norridge, IL 60706
- Chicago Ridge, 9700 S. Ridgeland Ave., Chicago Ridge, IL 60415
- Highland, 10353 Indianapolis Blvd., Highland, IN 46322
- Elmhurst, 303 S. Route 83, Elmhurst, IL 60126
- Tinley Park, 7500 W. 191st St., Tinley Park, IL 60477
- Huntington Beach, 7777 Edinger Ave., Ste. 140, Huntington Beach, CA 92647
- Upland, 1923 N. Campus Ave., Upland, CA 91784
- Redlands, 27540 Lugonia Ave., Redlands, CA 92374
- Torrance, 25375 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance, CA 90505