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Kohl’s CEO

by Nathan Zachary

Retailers with physical stores have been completely destroyed in recent years. Amazon arrived first. The pandemic followed.

The big box retailers that anchor strip malls throughout the suburbs are experiencing something of a revival, despite the fact that large shopping malls are dying and many storefronts are closing. Home Depot, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Best Buy are just a few businesses that have survived and even thrived. Add Kohls promo code as a further, perhaps improbable participant to that list.

The business, which offers a variety of products including clothing, home goods, athletic goods, and more, is clinging on despite the odds. It’s not always clear how Kohl’s fits into things. Despite being smaller than a department store, it offers many of the same products. Although it sells more mainstream goods, its outlets are frequently next to Walmarts.

Since taking over as Kohl’s CEO in 2018, Michelle Gass has been attempting to establish the brand as having a unique identity. After more than a decade of employment at Starbucks, she began working for the company eight years ago.

Along with keeping the stores running during the pandemic, she also made a number of agreements with other businesses.

The agreement with Amazon in 2019 that enables shoppers to return Amazon purchases to Kohl’s stores was the most out of the ordinary. Ms. Gass anticipates that they might go shopping while there.

The cosmetics shop Sephora, which is opening mini-stores inside Kohl’s outlets, is another new partner. It resembles a department shop somewhat.

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For clarity, this interview has been shortened and modified.

What aspects of your early life have influenced your career as a CEO today?

I was reared in a working-class neighbourhood and family in a tiny town in Maine where I was born and raised. I graduated from a four-year college early compared to other members of my family. That encouraged a desire to do more and accomplish more from an early age. I had a job while I was in high school and college. grocery shopping bagging was my first job. I worked as a waitress and even at a factory. I enjoy putting in a lot of effort, and I genuinely admire others that do the same.

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Chemical engineering is what I have a degree in. I occasionally get the question, “How did you learn engineering, particularly as a woman?” And to be really honest, I was very realistic and understood I could get a wonderful career with it. Although I didn’t have any engineers in my immediate family growing up, I completed my research and felt like this would help me get jobs. And it did, in fact.

What did working with Howard Schultz at Starbucks teach you?

Three items. The first is the value of culture; such a robust culture has developed through time. Second, it’s not only about what you sell; it’s also about the value of that personal connection, the emotional bond with the customer, and their affection for the brand. The power of creativity is the third, and it is a subject I am quite passionate about.

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Starbucks’ brand proposition is really distinct. How would you characterise Kohl’s position in the ecosystem of consumers?

For a very long time, Kohl’s had a lucrative business strategy. It was like a hybrid department store brand that offered mass mall convenience. But with time, that became hazy. What can we occupy in that place that will set us apart? is the challenge and opportunity. Developing into a viable omni-channel store was a component of it. And I think we can cross that off the list. But how can we become more relevant in terms of our products and brands? How will a brand be made to stand for something?

Over the past few years, department retailers have faced difficulties. Given how difficult it has been for J.C. Penney and Macy’s, how can you make it work?

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We are not at all like a conventional department store. Because we are small and incredibly handy, we can do things like buy online, pick up in store, and curbside. The fact that Kohl’s is the curator and editor who brings you all the brands and items you need to live a more active and casual lifestyle is more significant than anything else.

Is it more upscale? Is the market down? The target consumers are who?

There is America. We essentially serve all demographics of customers, which is a pretty broad basis. Our aim is to market the kinds of goods that were popularised by the pandemic while promoting an active and laid-back lifestyle. Looks are important to people. They want to feel at ease. When all is all said and done, their work clothing will seem significantly different than it did before.

Many people would consider it odd for a physical and mortar shop to partner with Amazon. What rationale underlies your agreement with them?


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When you stand back and consider what it’s like to return anything, especially with online returns, you may realise that it can be really inconvenient. Searching for the box, finding the tape, and affixing the receipt were all necessary. We are dealing with that problem. We may use our appetite and welcome in traffic as Amazon secures an agreement that can remove the friction point. When we first announced it, it was unorthodox undoubtedly, but I believe it turned out pretty nicely.

How has the pandemic altered the retail industry in ways that will last for the foreseeable future?

You must act swiftly to make decisions during a crisis. It was obvious that we needed to give our employees’ and customers’ safety first priority. When that was resolved, we had the chance to assess our approach and ask, “How can we be bigger and bolder?” And that made it possible for us to communicate with Sephora.

How much of the increased profitability is distributed to the employees and customers at the stores when you talk about it?

Due to the extremely competitive job market, we had to make difficult decisions on furloughs and when to open our doors and welcome our associates back. To make sure we are competitive on a market-by-market basis, we are taking numerous steps. We therefore give bonuses to our hourly employees. So I think we’re doing a lot to make sure we’re giving our employees a very excellent atmosphere.

What must you do in order to recruit the workers you require at this time? What do they want, and, frankly, what are they getting that they weren’t expecting?

The fact that more than 75% of that workforce is part-time is appealing to our associates. They enjoy the way of life.

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