Kohl's Expands Customer and Marketing Chief Role to Oversee Merchandising

Chief Customer Officer Michelle Gass in the Running for CEO

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Kohl's is widening the role of its customer chief, who oversees marketing, to lead merchandising, planning and allocation, and product development. Chief Customer Officer Michelle Gass, who is in the running to succeed CEO Kevin Mansell when he retires, took on the newly created position of chief merchandising and customer officer today. To free Ms. Gass up for this broader role, Mr. Mansell will handle digital, ecommerce and operations, which she previously oversaw.

The company is also holding an external search for a chief operations officer, another newly created role, to oversee store operations, logistics, digital, e-commerce, and store design among other duties, which currently are handled by Mr. Mansell. The new hire will also be a candidate for the CEO role when Mr. Mansell departs, the company said.

Michelle Gass, Chief Merchandising and Customer Officer, Kohl's
Michelle Gass, Chief Merchandising and Customer Officer, Kohl's

Ms. Gass, a former Starbucks executive who joined Kohl's in 2013, has overhauled the retailer's marketing over the past two years in the absence of a CMO. She has steered the company towards more emotional messaging and away from promotional ads with campaigns like "Find Your Yes" and "Holiday Magic." She also upped Kohl's investment in TV while pushing the brand into the digital and social space.

Kohl's executive reshuffling, which also includes newly created chief financial officer and chief administrative officer roles, is part of the retailer's three-year turnaround plan, dubbed the "Greatness Agenda." The plan to get the company back on track centers on increased personalization in stores, merchandising and marketing, the loyalty program Yes2You Rewards, which was introduced last year, and a renewed focus on national brands like Nike, among other efforts.

"The close connection between our merchandising and customer engagement strategies has been a key driver in the progress we have made in the early stages of our three-year plan with the goal of becoming the most engaging retailer in America," said Mr. Mansell, in a statement. "Our merchandising, planning and allocation, and product development functions are all led on a day-to-day basis by very seasoned and talented executives. I believe Michelle is the perfect leader of these executives, providing the vision and strategic direction we need to accomplish the ambitious goals we set in our three-year plan and overarching Greatness Agenda."

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