The Kohl’s department store on Veterans Parkway in Springfield is among more than 50 stores nationwide to take on a new look — and sound — in the chase for a multimedia generation of shoppers.

The Kohl’s department store on Veterans Parkway in Springfield is among more than 50 stores nationwide to take on a new look — and sound — in the chase for a multimedia generation of shoppers.


“Sure,” 20-something maintenance employee Anton Frazier replied Tuesday when asked if he recognized the hipper tunes that now stream from the store entrance. The entrance also has taken on softer cream and white colors.


It isn’t the first makeover for the Wisconsin-based chain during 27 years in Springfield. But company executives say it is based on a shift in shopper demographics, right down to a generational preference for fashionable concrete over carpet.


“We really look to update our stores every 10 to 12 years. We’re obviously a fashion store, and it’s very fashion-driven, very trend-based and just to freshen up the stores,” said Stan Kirchgessner, a district manager who oversees 56 stores, including Springfield.


Kirchgessner said stores are being converted in “waves” of 10 to 12 nationwide. Springfield is in the second group, along with two in Chicago. The conversions should be completed by this fall, said Kirchgessner.


“This store (Springfield) has all the bells and whistles. Then the next innovated store will probably get what Springfield has,” said Kirchgessner.


The Springfield store opened at White Oaks Mall in 1982 and relocated across Veterans Parkway to White Oaks Plaza in 1992. Indiana-based Simon Property Group operates both shopping centers.


Industry analysts say the Kohl’s chain, which has more than 1,000 stores, has managed to weather the recession better than most.


In addition to the remodeling project, Kohl’s plans to open 55 stores this year after adding 75 in 2008.


Even though profits fell in the first three months of the fiscal year, the figures beat Wall Street expectations. Analysts said the company also appears to be well positioned with its strategy of trendy fashions at department-store pricing.


Not that Kohl’s has been immune to the recession. The company reported same-store sales in May were down 0.4 percent compared to May 2008. Same-store sales for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31 were down 6.9 percent.


President and CEO Kevin Mansell cautioned in the annual report that the company expects 2009 “to be just as challenging.”


“We are planning conservatively in our sales expectations, inventory levels and expenses,” said Mansell.


There is a definite youth movement in the new look, specifically toward young women, said Springfield store manager Doug Rowe, who estimated women account for 80 percent of customers at the local store.


Vera Wang, Britney Spears and “The Hills” star Lauren Conrad are among the pop icons who now market clothing lines through Kohl’s. The Food Channel has a multimedia marketing agreement with the company.


Inside the store, traditional carpeting has given way to a black-on-gray swirled concrete in an expanded junior’s department. Young shoppers prefer the look, based on company marketing studies, explained Rowe. “Runways” — as in fashion runways — also have been created to redesigned fitting rooms.


There’s also the trendy sounds that have been added at the entrance, though the music will change with the season, Rowe said.


“It’s new for us. We have a lot of moms at some of our stores. We want to create a relaxing, inviting place to shop,” said Rowe. Piped-in music traditionally has been a fixture inside Kohl’s stores.


Lighting, interior color schemes, fixtures and merchandise layouts also have changed. But wider aisles are among the most noticeable changes. In fact, the store gave up about 3,000 square feet of sales space to create a more open feeling.


“It’s just like traffic on the street. It gets congested, and no one wants to feel cramped when they’re shopping,” said Rowe.


Staunton residents Dave Frizzo and Kathy Bollman said they have been shopping the Springfield Kohl’s for years. The couple said they like the new look, though Bollman said she was a little surprised to be greeted by music at the front door.


“It’s different. I’d just never heard that before,” said Bollman.


Illiopolis resident Jill Lee said she divides her trips between the store in Springfield and a store in Decatur.


“I’ve been coming here since they opened. You notice this (the changes) as soon as you walk in,” Lee said


As workers put the finishing touches on the renovation ahead of a Thursday grand reopening, Rowe said one trend he does not expect to see in Kohl’s is the shift toward super-sized stores.


“I don’t think you’ll see that here. We feel like we’ve found a pretty good niche,” he said.


Tim Landis can be reached at (217) 788-1536 or tim.landis@sj-r.com.


About Kohl’s Corp.


* Corporate headquarters: Menomonee Falls, Wis. Founded in 1962.


* 1,022 stores in 49 states at the start of May.


* 130,000 employees (120 in Springfield).


The latest financials


* Profit of $137 million for three-month period ended May 2, compared to $153 million for the same period of 2008.


* Net sales of $16.4 billion for year ended Jan. 31, compared to $16.5 billion the prior year; profit of $885 million compared to $1.084 billion the prior year.


* Stock at $46.67 on Tuesday compared to 52-week high of $56 and a low of $24.28