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These 3 factors will determine how Target and Kohl’s fare beyond the pandemic

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Key Points
  • Target and Kohl's will go head-to-head at suburban strip malls in the coming months as customers buy apparel and makeup.
  • Both retailers said eager shoppers are returning to stores as they refresh their wardrobes and plan for gatherings.
  • The two stores face different challenges as they emerge from the pandemic. "Target needs to retain its customer and Kohl's needs to reengage its customer," said Steph Wissink, managing director of Jefferies.
A Kohl's and Target location
Scott Mlyn | CNBC; Noam Galai | Getty Images

Some of the biggest battles in retail used to play out in shopping malls. Now, that retail rivalry has moved to strip centers, where Target and Kohl's compete for customers.

"The mall used to be the magnet," said Mark Cohen, former Sears Canada CEO and director of retail studies at Columbia University. "It used to be the more convenient alternative. But the focus has now shifted off-mall and obviously online."

Target and Kohl's have gained a strong following, particularly among suburban families, as longtime department stores like Macy's and J.C. Penney have floundered. The off-mall players have riffed off the same formula — offering a wide variety of merchandise in one place.

The retailers face different challenges as they emerge from the coronavirus pandemic. "Target needs to retain its customer and Kohl's needs to reengage its customer," Steph Wissink, managing director of Jefferies, said.

Yet both stand to benefit as the economy reopens and they compete with weakened mall-based players.

As shoppers take off masks and step up spending, Target and Kohl's plan to drive sales by adding beauty boutiques, focusing on fashion-forward apparel lines and enticing customers to visit more.

Here's a closer look at three factors that will determine how they fare.

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