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‘Best Of The Worst’ In Retail: Activist Investors Continue To Criticize Kohl’s Performance

Retailer Says Investors Are 'Focused On Short-Term Payout', Not 'Sustainable Success'

Charles Krupa/AP Photo

The fight between Menomonee Falls-based Kohl’s Corp. and a group of activist investors continues, with the investors unleashing new criticisms of the retail company late last week.

In a Friday letter, the group of investors said the company “seems to be content performing just slightly better than the worst companies in retail.”

“‘Best of the worst’ is not a viable strategy, nor does it satisfy shareholders like us seeking long-term superior performance,” the letter went on to say.

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The group, which includes Macellum Advisors GP, Ancora Holdings, Legion Partners Asset Management and 4010 Capital, collectively owns 9.5 percent of Kohl’s stock.

The group is the same band of investors that were rebuffed in February after attempting to take over Kohl’s board or directors.

In the letter, the investors outlined a series of complaints, saying the company’s financial goals haven’t been aggressive enough, and have shown a “lack of urgency.”

In a statement, Kohl’s pushed back, arguing the group’s comparison of the company’s 2019 results with their 2021 goals was “nonsensical given the continuing global pandemic.”

The group further criticized Kohl’s sales, saying they continue to underperform competitors.

“In fact, almost every retailer that experienced store closures during the pandemic is now seeing improving results,” the letter said. “In our view, the need for change at Kohl’s is based on the Company’s decade long under-performance leading up to the pandemic.”

But Kohl’s argued the company is building momentum, and the activist investors are only interested in short-term financial gain.

“The activist’s comments and track record reveal that they are focused on short-term payout at the expense of sustainable success,” Kohl’s said in a statement. “The Kohl’s board of directors and management have successfully positioned our company for a multi-year improvement at the top and bottom line. We reject the activists’ short-termism and their attempt to disrupt our momentum at this critical time.”