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To Predict Where Fashion's Headed, Kohl's Teams Up With Facebook

By Daniel B. Kline – Aug 16, 2019 at 5:49AM

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The social media giant's big data could guide the department store chain toward a trendier future.

Fashion moves fast, and like everything else in the modern world, it feels like it's only getting faster. So it's increasingly hard for lumbering old retailers to identify the "next big thing" in time to get it into stores before the moment has passed. What's easy is to miss by just a bit, and wind up with racks of unsold Vineyard Vines shirts or shelves full of Uggs that on-trend customers suddenly don't want anymore, because those looks are already played out.

Well, Kohl's (KSS 0.22%) thinks it has found a way to jump ahead of the curve and bring more of those chic products to its stores before fashion-forward millennials move on to the next "next thing."

The retailer is partnering with Facebook (META -0.93%) on a collection called Curated by Kohl's, a selection of emerging brands identified by the social media company that will be sold at around 50 of its department stores and on Kohls.com.

The exterior of a Kohl's.

Working with Facebook may help Kohl's figure out what fashion-conscious bargain hunters want in time to catch the trend cycle. Image source: Kohl's.

What is the retailer doing?

The partnership will leverage data from Facebook, Instagram, and the social media giant's other platforms to identify emerging brands for Kohl's to sell. Starting next year, the product lines will be refreshed quarterly, and all the items will be housed in their appropriate departments at the retailer, rather than grouped together in a single area, according to a press release.

"We're incredibly excited to launch Curated by Kohl's as a way to surprise and delight Kohl's customers with a continuous stream of new, relevant merchandise, and as an avenue to bring new customers to Kohl's," said Doug Howe, the retailer's chief merchandising officer,  in a press release.

The first collection under the new line, which was selected prior to the Facebook partnership, will include the following brands:

  • Adore Me: A lingerie line that includes bras, panties, and sleepwear.
  • East Adeline by Dia&Co: A clothing line for women available in sizes 14 through 32.
  • Kid Made Modern: Craft kits and art supplies.
  • Lovepop: A selection of laser-cut pop-up cards for various occasions.
  • Luca + Danni: A line of stacking bracelets.
  • United by Blue: An assortment of sustainable-living products such as eco-friendly bags, drinkware, and reusable straw kits. 

The second collection, which will be curated by Facebook, is set to launch next spring. Kohl's also plans to add a number of other new brands this year that are not part of the Curated program, including "Nine West apparel, handbags and footwear, the Scott Living home lifestyle collection, Elizabeth and James apparel, handbags and accessories, and a holiday capsule by fashion designer Jason Wu," according to the press release.

Can Kohl's catch the fashion wave?

By tapping into its vast ocean of social data, Facebook should be able to identify which brands and styles millennials are pivoting toward at any given moment. And even if the Kohl's can't rush those products to its shelves at the moment their appeal is at its most fresh, it should be able to capture the part of the trend-cycle where a fashion moves from "hard-to-find items only the cool kids know about" to the "everyone has to have it" period of broader appeal.

That's actually the sweet spot that a large mid-market department store chain should be pursuing in the first place, so this strategy should lead to both short- and long-term success. Some of the brands it features will have their moments -- maybe even extended ones -- before becoming almost entirely irrelevant. Others may become the next Crocs -- evolving from popular fads into looks that (while certainly not cool anymore) maintain enduring niches.

Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Daniel B. Kline owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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