For the past two holiday shopping seasons in 2017 and 2018, I’d noticed pre-print ads in my local Sunday newspaper from Kohl’s, the value-priced retailer, featuring wearable technology for health. There were devices branded Fitbit on the front page of Black Friday’s 2018 ad, shown here, with other tech brands promoted inside the pages.

These ads were bundled in my newspaper along with ones from Best Buy, Target, Walmart, and other retailers featuring the same or similar wearable health-tech.

This week, Kohl’s announced a collaboration with WW, the newly-rebranded Weight Watchers, for the retailer to bring a WW “salon” space to the store.

With this move, we welcome Kohl’s into my ever-expanding retail health landscape. This announcement is part health, part real estate, and all about consumers’ growing role in self-care and healthcare payor.

WW needs new-and-improved positioning, both physically (via novel accessible real estate options) and marketing-wise to refresh the brand. Weight Watchers has been challenged by mobile apps, like MyFitnessPal and LoseIt! among others, which help people self-track calories for free. Weight Watchers has also weathered competition from the likes of Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem, the latter of which was acquired by Tivity Health in late 2018, home of the popular Silver Sneakers program, and other wellness assets largely focused on aging well.

The WW re-branding for the iconic weight loss brand was prompted by consumers’ waning interest in “dieting” in favor of more holistic ways to approach weight, resilience, and eating styles like paleo, gluten-free, DASH/Mediterranean, and keto.

WW’s latest tagline is, “Wellness that works.”

What does Kohl’s get from this collaboration? First, they can repurpose existing real estate which is an operational cost that now can be shared with the WW Studio, if the concept scales beyond a few piloted locations. The Active/Wellness category at Kohl’s captured 15% of its sales in 2017. That year, Kohl’s expanded its relationship with Under Armour across men’s, women’s, children’s and home departments. The retailer figured out there had been half a million searches for ‘Under Armour’ on Kohls.com the previous year, identifying an opportunity with pent-up demand from wellness consumers who shopped the store.

So Kohl’s is betting they can sell more activewear and wellness equipment to WW clients who will enter the bricks-and-mortar store and shop online, spending more share-of-wallet on exercise and fitness clothes, along with scales, yoga mats, and — to be sure — wearable tech devices.

Watch this space for more announcements like the Kohl’s/WW alliance to help people meet personal health goals closer to home, where we live, work, play….and shop.

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