robotic vacuum cleaner on laminate wood floor smart cleaning technology

A robotic vacuum cleaner sits on a laminate wood floor. The CEO of Kohl's said robotic vacuum cleaners were the hot ticket in early Black Friday shopping. 

Move over, Instant Pots. Robot vacuums are also now at the top of the most-sought after items this holiday season, according to Kohl’s Chief Executive Officer Michelle Gass.

Their popularity was “a little bit more surprising,” Gass said in an interview. “We’re seeing a lot of demand this year for vacuums. There’s a lot of innovation, there’s a lot of technology. Things like robotic vacuums — so those are doing really well.”

Kohl’s is seeing shoppers navigate toward items that will save time and promote healthy lifestyles. This includes activewear, an area the company has invested in recently. And yes, Instant Pots continue to be a popular item, as well as air fryers and Ninja Foodi, a pressure cooker.

The holiday season is a critical time for U.S. retailers like Kohl’s. For department stores, a third or more of annual revenue comes from the fourth quarter. Earlier this month, the company cut its full-year profit forecast and plunged the most in three years. Gass at the time said the retailer was entering the holiday season with “momentum” and had put investment toward boosting traffic.

Kohl’s opened its stores at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and began its doorbuster sales online at midnight. Shoppers are grabbing up beauty products, bedding, pillows and electronics like the Nintendo Switch and the XBox 4. Some of the gaming consoles have already sold out online, Gass said.

This is also the first holiday season where Kohl’s allows its customers to return their Amazon packages to its more than 1,000 brick-and-mortar locations. The retailer’s calculation is that customers walking in to return those packages will stay awhile in the store and be converted to a Kohl’s shopper.

While Black Friday is “probably not our biggest day” for returns, Gass said she continues to be encouraged about the program.

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