While holiday shopping was front and center at the end of 2021, retailers also kept busy with new initiatives across everything from the environment to families and health. Since January is typically a low spending month, retailers focused on new initiatives and campaigns.
Read on for a roundup of new and notable things happening at Costco, Kohl's, Target, and Walmart & Sam's Club since our last report — and what this news means for brands.
Kohl's sought to harness the power of social media creators to drive sales by hosting shoppable livestreams on both Instagram and TikTok during the holiday season. During these events, viewers had the opportunity to watch and engage with creators as they decorated, shopped, and shared their favorite items and deals. This trend underscores the rising importance of the "unboxing" experience, as shopping hauls and gift hauls are popular on these platforms.
In December, Kohl's also advanced several of its corporate social responsibility campaigns, including by supporting the development of community solar projects across New York in 2022. Additionally, it introduced the Family Engagement Distinction, an extension of its Healthy at Home Program. This new initiative recognizes schools committed to supporting student health needs by building strong relationships with caregivers and families.
Kohl's also celebrated the success of its ongoing support for climate action with its third consecutive CDP A-ranking. In a statement, Kohl's chief risk and compliance officer Steve Thomas expressed his pride in the recognition while reiterating Kohl's commitment to climate action and implementing sustainable solutions across every business sector.
January & February
Kohl's dedicated significant efforts to giving back in early 2022, including the following initiatives:
- the launch of a spring collection celebrating childhood classics and Black History Month
- a new education benefit program for employees
- a $500,000 donation through its Hometown Giving Program
- continued partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to prioritize health and wellness during the upcoming back-to-school season
- a new partnership with the Milwaukee Bucks to support the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee's (BGCGM) Youth of the Year program
In late January, Kohl's received a score of 100% on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's 2022 Corporate Equality Index (CEI). It was also designated as a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality for the third straight year.
Said Kohl's Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Michelle A. Banks, "At Kohl's, we believe that understanding and embracing our differences is fundamental in creating an inclusive environment for all. As we continue to embed equity, diversity, and inclusion across the business, we strive to create lasting change by addressing inequities to positively affect our people, customers, and community."
It follows that brands that share this commitment and embrace it in their initiatives will be positioned for successful partnerships with Kohl's.
Costco reported a record-breaking December with a 16.2% spike in sales despite some product recalls.
To keep that momentum going, Costco announced that it would beef up an existing perk available exclusively to club members, that offers savings of 20% or more off of purchases from approximately 35 brand websites. While Costco Next has been around since 2017, Costco is actively building out partnerships and prominently advertising the program with plans to add more products and brands over the next 12 months.
The brand is also hoping that this move will help cultivate a more "curated" feel for the shopping experience and increase its presence as more than a physical store.
January & February
Costco shareholders recently made a statement by voting for a stricter climate plan related to supply-chain admissions. This outcome aligns with a general movement by investors to expect companies to maintain higher standards for climate action, including for their supply chains.
The retailer also moved forward with proposed plans to open its first Maine store. Currently, there's one store in New Hampshire and limited stores in Massachusetts.
With Costo seeking out new partnerships, this potentially opens the door to new brands and products. Additionally, eco-conscious brands may be a good fit.
While gearing up for the holiday season, Target announced a major change at all of its locations: extending store hours from 7 AM to midnight. And despite being closed on Christmas Day (as well as Thanksgiving), Target reported increased foot traffic over previous years in contrast to companies like Walmart and Best Buy, both of which saw declining traffic.
Other holiday news from Target includes the company's significant investment in its team members with everything from industry-leading wages to debt-free education assistance.
January & February
Target continues to innovate with its product offerings, recently entering into personalized skincare with the independent brand Pure Culture Beauty and debuting its first home organization brand, Brightroom.
Amidst supply chain disruptions, Target has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that consumers have uninterrupted access to the products they want and need. This has meant seeking out partners to build out and prioritize plans proactively.
While Walmart was heavily focused on maintaining holiday sales throughout December, it had time to innovate across several verticals, including supply chain, technology, and community.
In early December, the company made headlines when it announced that its HSBC-supported Sustainable Supply Chain Finance program (SSCF) would become the industry's first to use science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to Walmart Senior Vice President for Sustainability Jane Ewing, initiatives like Project Gigaton™ are intended to encourage all Walmart suppliers to set emission reduction goals of their own across six key areas: energy, nature, waste, packaging, transportation, and product use and design.
Also in December, Walmart announced its participation in a new online pilot program that makes it easier for customers to pay for WIC eligible items online using their electronic benefits cards.
Finally, Walmart and Sam's Club Pharmacies stepped up in the fight against COVID. Both announced that they were not only ready to receive and dispense FDA-authorized COVID-19 antiviral medications but that an online store locator had been created to help customers locate nearby stores carrying these critical meds.
January & February
As usual, Walmart's been busy in recent weeks. On the technology front, it announced movement on an interactive store redesign to elevate the in-store experience, as well as plans to begin selling consumers a financial services "super app."
Other recent initiatives have included a partnership with Plenty to connect consumers with fresh produce; plans for exploring new opportunities in Central America; an invitation to Indian sellers to join its curated community, Walmart Marketplace; and its expansion into the home goods market.
Finally, Walmart reinforced its commitment to society in two ways: through its Our Live Better U (LBU) education program, which creates paths of opportunity for career growth for associates, and through its Center for Racial Equity, which supports Black-owned businesses and Black entrepreneurs.
Given Walmart's demonstrated support for diversity, equity, and inclusion, Walmart may have unique partnership opportunities for Black-owned brands. In light of the redesign, brands offering unique in-store experiences or innovative packaging may be increasingly relevant.