Kohl’s unveils plans for store in downtown Milwaukee

Opening fall 2023 in former Boston Store space

Rendering of Kohl's ground-floor storefront in the Hub640 building. Credit: Kohl's/Engberg Anderson Architects

Last updated on July 19th, 2022 at 01:40 pm

Kohl’s Corp. announced plans Friday to open a new retail location in the former Boston Store space on West Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee.

Opening in fall 2023 on the ground floor of the HUB640 building, the 40,000-square-foot store will feature a “highly localized” product assortment – think Milwaukee Bucks and Brewers gear – and a “Sephora at Kohl’s” beauty shop.

BizTimes Milwaukee and other local outlets got wind of Kohl’s plans earlier this week after Chicago-based public relations firm KT Public Relations sent out a notification about a press conference Friday to announce a “major retailer coming to HUB640.”

It’s the first step into downtown Milwaukee for the Menomonee Falls-based national department store chain, which operates nearly 1,200 stores across the country, largely in suburban markets. The planned Milwaukee store, however, is one of 100 small-format locations Kohl’s is rolling out over the next four to five years, in markets considered too small to support the typical 80,000-square-foot full-size Kohl’s store.

Speaking to the media Friday morning, Kohl’s chief executive officer Michelle Gass expressed confidence in the ongoing revitalization of West Wisconsin Avenue and the Westown neighborhood and explained why now is the time for the retailer to establish a downtown Milwaukee presence.

“I think it’s the perfect marriage of the efforts underway in the city of Milwaukee,” Gass said. “The fact that we’re going to be here, and there’s a (planned) concert venue and there’s a (planned) soccer field and all the great food and entertainment happening. … This store is an example of what we’re going to be doing across the country, and I think it’s phenomenal.”

Michelle Gass, CEO of Kohl’s.

Gass said the company taps into data analytics to design the product mix for its small-format stores, focusing on “what’s available and what makes sense for a local community.” A new pilot store opening later this year in Tacoma, Washington will target the active lifestyle customer with an assortment focused on outdoor gear.

The plans for these smaller stores are part of Kohl’s current turnaround strategy, which company leadership has continued to defend amid activist investor pressure earlier this year and a near sale of the company last month – all on top of ongoing retail industry disruption, especially in the wake of the pandemic.

The strategy includes growing its partnership with Sephora to a $2 billion line of business. Since fall, Sephora’s shop-in-shops have opened at 200 Kohl’s locations, with 400 more opening this year, for a total of 850 stores by 2023. The Milwaukee location will be the 15th Milwaukee-area Kohl’s store to include a Sephora. That’s out of a total 20 store locations in southeastern Wisconsin.

HUB640 is the brand name for the former downtown Milwaukee Boston Store and Bon-Ton corporate headquarters building. The five-story, 298,000-square-foot building, located at 640 Vel R. Phillips Ave., was acquired by Chicago-based North Wells Capital in 2017 for $25 million. North Wells Capital has since made a number of improvements to the building.

Kohl’s downtown location is the latest development contributing to a resurgence of Milwaukee’s Westown neighborhood. Other notable Westown developments – completed or in the works – in recent years include Fiserv Forum and the Deer District, the Bradley Symphony Center, the expansion of the Wisconsin Center, The Avenue development, which includes 3rd Street Market Hall, and Milwaukee Tool’s new downtown office.

Maredithe has covered retail, restaurants, entertainment and tourism since 2018. Her duties as associate editor include copy editing, page proofing and managing work flow. Meyer earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University and still enjoys attending men’s basketball games to cheer on the Golden Eagles. Also in her free time, Meyer coaches high school field hockey and loves trying out new restaurants in Milwaukee.

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