We went to Kohl's and Target and found they were both a mess. Here’s why I’d shop at Target anyway.

Shoshy Ciment/Business InsiderThe exterior of a Manhattan Target, which includes a grocery store, a pharmacy, and a large beauty section.
  • Kohl’s and Target sell some similar products. But the bullseye chain has recently been faring better overall in terms of sales and traffic.
  • Kohl’s recently reported in its second-quarter earnings that sales dropped 2.9% in stores open for more than a year, though Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass said the company’s partnership with Amazon has increased foot traffic in its stores.
  • Target beat expectations in the second quarter and reported a 3.4% growth in comparable sales due to a 2.4% growth in traffic.
  • We visited both stores. Even though both were messy, Target’s trendier clothes and grocery options made it clear why Kohl’s is trailing behind.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Target is taking over.

The company reported glowing results for Q2, including a 3.4% growth in comparable sales from a 2.4% traffic increase. From groceries to home goods to clothes, Target has become a go-to destination for a wide range of consumers.

Meanwhile, Kohl’s is trailing behind. Sales dropped 2.9% in Kohl’s stores open for more than a year, the company recently reported in its second-quarter earnings. The retailer announced a partnership with Amazon in 2017 to accept returns for the e-commerce giant in its stores, a move which boosted traffic nearly 24% in the three weeks after the partnership began, data from inMarket revealed.


Read more:
We shopped at Target and the struggling Pier 1 Imports to see which store is better at selling home goods – and there was a clear winner

With 1,855 stores in the US, Target has a larger presence than the 1,100 Kohl’s stores across the country. But a trip to both stores revealed that the superstore’s advantage doesn’t stop there.

While both stores were punctuated by messiness, Target’s trendier clothing options and grocery section made it clear why Kohl’s cannot compete with the superstore’s dominance.

Here’s what we saw:


First, we stopped by a Kohl’s in a Jersey City, New Jersey mall.

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When we walked in, we learned about the Kohl’s app, which gives customers the opportunity to save while they shop. That seemed pretty cool.

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We also noticed some trendy-looking shopping carts.

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The first place we visited was the women’s clothing section, which was filled with clothes for every context, from formal to athletic.

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There were a lot of options here, but it was hard to find anything stylish. It felt like every item here was completely out of touch with current fashion trends.

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And the prices weren’t great either. This two-piece Vera Wang pajama set was unappealing — and it cost $US56.

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Luckily, the Vera Wang sleepwear section was having a buy one, get one 50% off sale, so it wasn’t completely unreasonable.

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It didn’t take long for us to notice that the store was punctuated with messiness. There were racks overflowing with clothes …

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… and there were unattended carts with merchandise throughout the aisles of the store.

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The clearance section was probably the most disconcerting. For the most part, it looked like a closet from the 2000s had exploded.

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Shoe boxes were toppling over one another and spilling off the table.

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We did find a cool little Fortnite sweater for kids originally priced for $US40 but on sale.

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The shoe section was filled with different sneakers and sandals for men and women. Again, nothing really jumped out to us here.

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We kept walking and found ourselves in the middle of a large appliance section. There were multiple brands to choose from here, and the displays seemed to stretch on for miles.

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We found everything from vacuum cleaners …

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… to baking trays.

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For kids, there was a sizable section of toys and games with everything from Legos to footpath chalk.

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When it came to home decor, Kohl’s had a lot of options to choose from. Plus, a lot was on sale.

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We wished for more from the scented candle display, but the home section at Kohl’s delivered overall and was probably one of the strongest aspects of the store so far.

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Kohl’s gives shoppers the chance to order online and then pick up their purchases in the store. We quickly found a wall of lockers that held customers’ pre-ordered items.

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We also found a kiosk for people to drop off their Amazon returns while at Kohl’s. This partnership with Amazon was introduced in July and has increased store traffic as high as 24%, data from inMarket showed.

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Source: Business Insider


There was a surprisingly large luggage section that was probably the most organised area of the store.

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We also found a station of Fitbit wristbands near a section of backpacks.

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The store was larger than we had initially expected. We travelled down the escalator to see what else we could find.

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We found some more women’s clothes — again, it seemed like everything was outdated.

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Luckily, jeans never go out of style, so this large selection of Levi’s was a pretty sight for sore eyes.

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In another small win for Kohl’s, the athletic-wear section downstairs was stocked with some top brand like Adidas, Nike, and Under Armour.

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Overall, Kohl’s let us down with its outdated clothes. The home-goods offerings were decent, but there was little else that made us want to continue shopping there.

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Next, we stopped by a Target in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighbourhood in New York City.

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We entered the store and were blown away at the chic design of the main floor. It looked like we had just walked into a trendy department store, not a superstore that also sells groceries.

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Mannequins were showing off some summer styles — and we were actually intrigued by the offerings.

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Target has its own clothing brands in order to keep customers up-to-date with the latest styles. The prices were also generally affordable. This Who What Wear dress was going for $US39.99.

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Source: Target


We also loved this tie-dye sweatshirt for only $US22.

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We found some eye-catching costume jewellery nearby …

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… as well as some sunglasses.

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Toward the back of the store, we found a bohemian-style display of home decor. This whole section looked like it was pulled from a place like Anthropologie, but the prices made it clear that we were still in Target.

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This area had a pop-up feeling to it, but it certainly added to the trendy atmosphere of the store.

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Without a doubt, the scented candle section here put the selection at Kohl’s to shame.

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We walked a few steps up to a loft in the main area, where we found an assortment of school supplies in time for the back-to-school season.

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Though there were some sections with folders and lunch boxes, a lot of this area was in complete disarray. Items were being loaded onto shelves in huge quantities.

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Next, we travelled downstairs to see what the rest of the store had to offer.

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We saw a sign that was advertising same-day delivery. Kohl’s also offers same-day delivery to certain neighbourhoods.

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Source: Kohl’s


We quickly found ourselves in the midst of a hefty section for home-goods.

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Though we liked the more whimsical items we had seen upstairs, this section had everything else you could need to make a home as well, from bedding to picture frames.

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However, the mess downstairs was impossible to avoid. When we asked a store employee if the store always looked like this, he said it did, which was pretty disturbing.

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Mess aside, we found some more great clothes down here for men and women.

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We also found a kid’s section not far away.

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Interestingly, the fitting rooms were constructed in the centre of the store, like a pop-up shop.

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The toy section at Target was comparable to the one at Kohl’s, though there did seem to be more options in terms of board games for older kids.

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We also found a nice array of electronics …

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… as well as kitchen appliances like coffeemakers and pots and pans.

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More than just aesthetically appealing, these dining bowls cost just $US1.99 each.

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We found a large makeup and beauty products area set up in a display that rivaled that of a department store.

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We also found a CVS pharmacy in the store, likely the result of the partnership between the two companies that was announced in 2015.

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Source: CVS Health


One of the most notable advantages Target has over Kohl’s is its grocery store. The superstore even recently announced that it was launching a new grocery brand called Good & Gather.

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Source: Business Insider


Target appealed to the busy person inside of us that desired a quick one-stop-shop for stylish clothes and groceries.

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But here too, the mess was unbearable.

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When we went to check-out, we were pleased to discover that we could choose between being helped by an associate or checking out ourselves. This variety of options helped keep the lines short.

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We travelled back up the escalator understanding the appeal of Target. Despite the mess in the store, the fashion-forward clothes and superstore convenience made the store a better place to spend time than Kohl’s.

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Though the Amazon-return centres might be helping traffic as of now, Kohl’s has a long way to go if it wants to beat out Target in the future.

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