If you’re a fan of Kohl’s, you’d undoubtedly feel disgruntled about some of their more recent decisions.
The shutting down of several influential brands associated with the parent company did not sit well with the customers.
Nevertheless, it happened.
Among the trendiest brands to take the hit was Apt. 9 Jeans – one of Kohl’s adventurous experiments. So what happened to Kohl’s Apt. 9 brand?
The handful of fans that the brand garnered are still looking for their clothing line on the internet.
But, unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of streams left online that cater to the forgotten brand.
Where did it all go wrong?
And who’s responsible for the downfall – is it the underperforming statistics of Apt. 9, or did Kohl’s never really pay enough attention to nurturing their jeans brand carefully?
Let’s find out.
The Inaugural Twist of Apt. 9 in the Early 2000s
Kohl’s existed before introducing Apt. 9 as a proprietary label. The parent company witnessed a lot of ups and downs throughout its years of operation.
A slightly concerning period for them was the start of the 21st century. The early 2000s witnessed a weary Kohl’s trying to make a return on the big stage.
Unfortunately, after enjoying a fairly successful financial period of over 20 years, Kohl’s started lagging.
The primary reason for this mishap was the confusion concerning the company’s merchandise. While fast fashion evolved steadily, Kohl’s opted to stick to their traditional inventory.
The decision led to a financial disaster, and the company recorded a ginormous decline in sales.
However, Kohl’s had many strategies to up their numbers by the end of the year.
One such strategy of beating the disappointing financial summary of their previous year’s business was the introduction of Apt. 9, an infant brand catering to the fashion niche.
At that time, Kohl’s devoted 589 of their stores spread throughout the country to host the inaugural ceremony of the new label.
They anticipated the launch as one of the most significant turning points in the company’s history.
The products they wanted to offer through this label included men’s accessories, footwear, and home-based products.
But, most importantly, they had jeans, which later would become synonymous with the brand of Apt. 9.
With the introduction of Apt. 9, the primary goal for Kohl’s was to win back the customer base that had somehow trickled down to their competitors – the likes of J.C. Penney and Target.
Apt. 9’s Initial Years at the Office
Like all the other operations of Kohl’s, their Apt. 9 sub-branch also devoted itself to making products for women.
While they also catered to men, the company officials clarified that they won’t de-prioritize their primary target market.
The launch of new products soon became imminent – we saw stylish, modern jeans like the Kohl’s Apt. 9 Jeans Tummy Control to offer a slim look to the wearer and Apt. 9 low-rise jeans or the jackets and sweaters that paired up perfectly with them.
The honeymoon period of the brand went well. Kohl’s pulled out no stops in marketing the launch of its new line of products.
And the customers bought the advertising stunt like it was a Christmas sale.
Initially, Apt. 9 served as a much-needed respite for Kohl’s. All good things, however, come to an unprecedented end.
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Is Apt. 9 Jeans Still in Business?
One of the most common questions among Kohl’s more recent enthusiasts rings the same notes – are Apt. 9 jeans discontinued?
Unfortunately, Kohl’s couldn’t survive the massive financial crisis that followed the pandemic. As a result, like several other corporate entities, the company suffered a significant setback during COVID.
The crisis forced them to shut down several of their brand children. One of them was Apt. 9.
Sure, the brand started well. But over time, their performance became rocky and increasingly unsteady.
They were not generating enough profits, and the loss due to added inventory became too much.
When Kohl’s took a financial hit during the pandemic, they decided to close the doors of Apt. 9 permanently.
Why Did Apt. 9 Shut Down?
On 17 November 2020, Kohl’s Corp announced that they were undergoing a stark decrease of 13.3% in their comparable sales.
This effectively led to a net loss of $12 million for just the third quarter of the financial year.
At that point, Kohl’s had reported total revenue of a meager $3.97 million, recording a sharp decrease of 14% from last year.
While the company remained adamant that its performance in the third quarter continued to battle the negative economic impact of the pandemic, the actual numbers tell a different story.
By the end of the financial period, the projected net loss came to about $47 million.
To give you an idea of how bad the situation was at Kohl’s, the retail giant had to temporarily shut down its entire operations at the start of the pandemic, a period in which they experienced a loss of $500 million.
To trim down the expenses, the company forced itself to reduce its total workforce by 15%, a massive number on the industrial scale.
How Kohl’s weathered the Financial Crisis
It’s almost unimaginable how difficult it was for Kohl’s to recover from the substandard performance they displayed during the first half of the pandemic.
But now, the company, with the entirety of its leftover strength, prepared itself to rise to the occasion.
First, the officials needed to make drastic decisions and implement sound marketing strategies to get back in shape.
Come the arrival of the holiday season, Kohl’s tapped into the gifting season. They launched various products that catered to the seasonal trends of the consumer mindset.
As a result, they recovered a portion of their losses through this period alone.
The marketing strategies, therefore, played their part excellently.
Now came the time to make some tough decisions to cut the losses. Kohl’s announced globally that they will discontinue eight of their underperforming brands.
The most prominent of them included Apt. 9 and Chaps.
To shift their focus to a fresh start, Kohl’s announced that exiting from these brands will allow the company to be more attentive towards the Nine West Brand, which showed a lot of promise.
The end of the road came fairly quickly for Apt. 9 Jeans. The women-centric brand, although responsible for saving Kohl’s the first time, couldn’t do it for the second time in a row.
Ultimately, the brand disappeared.
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The Timeline of Kohl’s and Apt. 9 – An Intertwined History
Maxwell Kohl founded the Kohl’s Corp in 1962 in the small town of Brookfield, Wisconsin. A Polish Immigrant, Kohl had spent a large part of his life working for factories in the United States.
He opened a small grocery store when he was only 26 years old, showing the first signs of his entrepreneurial flair. The store modeled itself in the format of a modern supermarket.
After years of operation, Kohl set out to become a business tycoon – opening 48 markets before he sold the chain in 1970.
After selling his grocery chain, he started a new venture – to establish a departmental store chain.
He did so because he was experiencing some difficulty in buying a shirt and wanted to find a global solution for that – thus starting the Kohl’s department store-retail chain.
Kohl expanded the business by selling high-quality products for lower prices. He ran the company for a decade before selling it out in 1972.
After the takeover, Kohl’s chain continued for over two decades, expanding throughout the United States.
In the early 2000s, Kohl’s started an aggressive expansion campaign, introducing several new brands, including Apt. 9.
The retail chain also suffered media backlash when they raised issues on who makes Apt. 9 jeans.
Many reporters believed that the working conditions in such factories were akin to those of sweatshops.
In the 2010s, Kohl’s, in collaboration with Apt. 9, partnered with multiple celebrities, including Avril Lavigne, Carly Rae Jepson, and so on.
Kohl’s and Apt. 9 worked well for several years. However, the brand started underperforming as the designs lacked boldness and couldn’t keep pace with the fast fashion climate.
It took the ultimate hit with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The performance was so abysmal that Kohl’s ultimately had to shut down Apt. 9 for good.
Kohl’s, however, continues to exist, recording moderately successful financial records ever since.
What Apt. Customers Say About the Brand?
In terms of reviews and feedback, Apt. 9 jeans have received a mixed verdict. The products usually have more number of 5-star ratings, but their 1-star rating records aren’t that impressive either.
Most of the customers shared the similar viewpoint regarding the comfort of the material. The denim, customers opine, is convenient and comfortable to wear.
A common complaint from the customers is the inconsistency in the sizing of the jeans.
Online e-commerce platforms reportedly often deliver the wrong-sized jeans to customers, exponentially increasing the brand’s return rate.
Another positive from the customers was the diversity that Apt. 9 offers. It has a fitting product for all kinds of people.
One customer said – “I’m 6’4’’ and 145 pounds, so finding pants are very difficult for me. However, Apt. 9 is the one place where I can find the right kind of jeans that perfectly snuggles my waist. 5-star all the way!”
The negative reviews mostly related to the brand’s lack of designs. Even after years of operation, Apt. 9 continued to stick with its traditional clothing lines instead of experimenting.
That aspect of their business largely contributed to the brand’s downfall.
It would be unfair to claim that Apt. 9 simply shut down because it wasn’t good enough or was underperforming.
The inconsistency of Kohl’s had a huge part to play in the brand’s downfall.
For instance, Apt. 9 was introduced because Kohl’s was facing a financial setback during the early 2000’s.
As an aggressive expansion strategy, they launched several new lines of products, including Apt. 9 as one of their primary labels.
After getting back on track, they expanded even more aggressively, partnering with different celebrities and popular athletes to promote their products.
They never focused their attention on just one brand. They were instead opting to milk out profits from wherever possible.
One could largely consider Apt. 9 as an incomplete brand. After all, the label lacked vision. Who did it serve – is Apt. 9 a men’s brand or a women’s brand?
The company officials said it’s both – but they still manufactured women-centric products and designs.
Ultimately, it was the lack of focus and attention that led to the early demise of Apt. 9.
While the brand did have its own shortcomings, the inconsistent nature of Kohl’s financial records is equally to blame.