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All Contents © 2019The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Bob Niedt, Online Editor
| Updated March 2017
Chances are, if you’re not a Kohl’s fan, you know someone who is – and given the opening that someone will shower you with stories of saving big. The Wisconsin-based department store chain boasts a fiercely loyal customer base made up mostly of thrifty suburban shoppers. You’ll find a typical Kohl’s – there are 1,164 stores in 49 states – in a standalone location in a well-to-do shopping center. Malls are not its thing.
If it strikes you as puzzling that Kohl’s has a cult following along the lines of Trader Joe's or Wegmans, then this story is for you. Current customers might even learn a hack or two, as we look into the nuts and bolts of shopping – and saving – at Kohl’s.
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Yes, you want to give them your name and email address. If you’re like me and tired of giving out your email address, you’ve stopped. But give it up for Kohl’s. It’s where the savings will start. You will also want to sign up for Kohl’s Yes2You Rewards. You can do it in-store or via the Kohl’s app (we’ll get to that later). It’s basically a 5% cash-back program. You garner points as you buy stuff. You will also get special discount offers throughout the year.
Give them your birthday, too. It pays off. You’ll get birthday discounts when your special day rolls around.
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Take advantage of Kohl’s Cash. Kohl’s Cash is, in essence, a coupon that you earn by shopping during a specified time period. It can be redeemed on a future purchase made during a corresponding redemption period. You get $10 worth of Kohl’s Cash for every $50 you spend after all discounts are applied and before sales tax. (Insider tip: Kohl’s will round up to $50 even if you only spend $48.) So, for example, if you shop between the 15th and 20th of the month, you can redeem the Kohl’s Cash you earn when you shop again between the 21st and 31st of the month.
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Use it to store all of your Kohl’s coupons including Kohl’s Cash. Additionally, when fired up in-store, you can score 10 free Yes2You rewards points.
“Kohl's always has a coupon offer available and the app is the easiest way to make sure you always have the best coupons available when you walk into the store,” says Heather Schisler, founder of PassionForSavings.com, a coupon and deal website. “You can also use the bar-code scanner in the app to check the price of any item in the store.”
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Use the Kohl’s in-store kiosk. It’s like a self-checkout, except, in my Kohl’s experiences, it’s usually near the customer service counter in another part of the store. It has its savings perks – like free shipping anywhere in the U.S., straight to you or your friends and family (think birthday or holiday gifts).
While shopping at Kohl’s, connect to the free Wi-Fi. A coupon could come your way, typically in the range of $5 off a $25 purchase or $10 off a $30 purchase.
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Kohl’s accepts multiple coupons for most purchases. Take advantage. “Kohl's coupon policy allows you to stack a dollar-off coupon (a $10 off $30 purchase coupon) with a percent-savings coupon (save 20% on your entire purchase). By using one of each type of coupon you can get double the savings,” says Schisler. “This is one of the best ways to save big when shopping at Kohl's.”
You can even use coupons on clearance items, which have already been marked down 60% or more. So if the clearance price is 80% off and you have a 30% off coupon, stack it, baby.
There’s a caveat to couponing at Kohl’s. Increasingly, more products are on the no-sale list, meaning you can’t use Kohl’s coupons and promotional offers to buy them. Count out most electronics, Keurig items and Nike goods. Check before you commit to a purchase.
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Electronic price tags on the shelves of Kohl’s stores are there to be easily changed by corporate to reflect new pricing. Learn to interpret the codes parked in the upper-left corner of the LCD readout. BB stands for Bonus Buy (meaning Kohl's bought a lot of these from a manufacturer at a ridiculously low price); BGH stands for Buy One, Get One Half Off; PP is Product Placement, meaning the sale price is fixed by the manufacturer or Kohl's and not discounted; and S stands for Sale, meaning that item will be on sale for up to two weeks. Is there a square in the upper-right corner of the electronic tag? That means the product is at its lowest price – until it goes on clearance.
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Start by playing the age card. If you’re 55 or older, you get a 15% discount every Wednesday in-store. And yes, that’s an offer that’s stackable with other discounts and promotions. Bring valid identification.
Night owls should shop on certain Fridays from 3 p.m. until closing time, when in-store and online specials are offered. Early birds get similar treatment on some Saturdays from opening until 1 p.m. Night Owl/Early Bird specials occur at least twice a month. Check your newspaper insert or Kohls.com for specific dates.
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Kohl’s is experimenting with a new off-price concept, Off/Aisle by Kohl’s. The recently opened pilot stores in Wauwatosa and Waukesha, Wis., and the year-old store in Cherry Hill, N.J., sell overstock items as well as goods customers have returned to Kohl’s stores or Kohls.com. The heavily discounted merchandise has locked-in prices – meaning you can’t use Kohl’s discounts, offers, promotions, coupons or gift cards at Off/Aisle. And all sales are final, with no returns or exchanges. Kohl’s deemed the New Jersey store a big hit before opening the Wisconsin stores in June. Expect more.
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Often sporting sale prices on their attached electronic price tags, small kitchen appliances are tempting at Kohl’s (and they’re usually prominently displayed in print ads). The deals website BensBargains.com adds that shoppers can often stack coupons on top of sale prices depending on the appliance brand.
However, our experience in Kohl’s kitchen department was hit or miss – with more misses than hits. A Cuisinart Velocity Ultra 1-horsepower blender selling for $129.99 at Kohl’s could be purchased for $99.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond and $77.25 at Amazon.com. Similarly, a KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer, on sale for $349.99 (list price $430) at Kohl’s, was selling for $269.99 at Amazon. Williams-Sonoma was matching Kohl’s sale price on the stand mixer and sweetening the offer with a $50 gift.
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The toy department at Kohl’s is conveniently staged as a nice diversion for kids while parents do their grown-up shopping. But be forewarned: The prices you’ll find on many toys won’t be competitive. For example, a Beauty and the Beast Belle Village Dress Doll was selling in-store at Kohl’s for $22.99; Amazon carried the same doll for $11.99.
There are exceptions. Seek out the section of the toy department where the super-discounted items are stashed. We found Star Wars toys marked down 60% at a Kohl’s location in Northern Virginia.
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