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For Gary Vasques, exec VP-marketing for Kohl's Corp., 1999 was, as Yogi Berra used to say, "Deja vu all over again."

Mr. Vasques, 52, early in his retail career worked for Caldor, a now liquidated department store chain in New York. Last year, he was back at some of his old haunts, but this time he was reopening the stores under the Kohl's name.

This time, results were very different for Mr. Vasques, a salt-water fisherman who has developed skills studying the tides and assessing his targets.

"It's like figuring out complex puzzles," he says of both his vocation and his avocation.

The 32 stores converted in the New York tri-state area are poised to post first-year sales equal to 75% of average mature-store volumes, a figure that impresses Wall Street.

Not only that, but during the last five years of his tenure at Kohl's, a spokeswoman says average sales increases at stores open for more than one year have outpaced those of the Gap, Wal-Mart Stores and Target Stores.

While Kohl's stores were clean and impeccable, the company's advertising wasn't, according to the executive. The logo's colors changed in print every week, and broadcast messages didn't match print advertising or in-store promotions.

Mr. Vasques got the marketing look together under one apt theme: "That's more like it."

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