Shelley E. Kohan

Associate Professor, Fashion Institute of Technology
Shelley E. Kohan has been serving the retail industry for over 30 years working in senior leadership positions across various functions including general management, marketing, operations, merchandising, buying, and human resources. Positions include President Shelmark Consulting, Vice President Retail Consulting RetailNext, Executive Vice President Space NK, Vice President Store Operations Saks Fifth Avenue, Operating Vice President Bloomingdale’s, Director of Logistics Macy’s West, and Regional Director Operations Macy’s West. Kohan is a recognized retail expert appearing in the NBC Nightly News, Fox News, CGTN Global Business News, Wall St. Journal, New York Times, Women’s Wear Daily, Reuters, Fortune, Chain Store Age, The Robin Report, and other publications. She is a webinar and conference speaker appearing at WWD Digital, WWD 20/20, NRF Big Show,, Future of Stores and RIS Retail Executive Summit. Kohan has been honored as a Top Retail Influencer (2016, 2017, 2018) by Vend University. Kohan teaches as a tenured assistant professor both face-to-face and online classes on topics of retail management, case study method, marketing strategies, leadership development, and fashion business practices. Shelley earned a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree from Penn State University, a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Behavior from the University of San Francisco and an associate’s degree in Merchandising and Buying from the Fashion Institute of Technology of the State University of New York.
  • Posted on: 07/23/2019

    ThirdLove brings digital bra-fitting to physical retail with its first store

    ThirdLove is an excellent brand with good bra-fitting technology. Women dislike trying on jeans, bathing suits and bras. The biggest issue is lack of consistency in sizing across brands. A woman who is 32b with one brand is 32d at brands that use vanity sizing. Brand consistency in sizing is key to providing retailers with a loyal following. ThirdLove does this well.
  • Posted on: 05/08/2019

    Angela Ahrendts talks about lessons learned at Apple

    Being a steward of the brand is important, as well as believing in the overriding ethos of the brand. Employees at every level should recognize that every interaction they have with a customer is as a brand ambassador, and this applies to decisions made within the company as well.
  • Posted on: 04/30/2019

    Is PetSmart barking up the right tree with its IPO?

    Going public is a great way to raise capital and expand the business, however, with this comes greater accountability to the shareholders unless you level-set expectations. How the funding will be used to further drive profitable strategies will be most important. Chewy has deep loyalty with subscriptions and should look for ways to to drive AOV with their existing customers.
  • Posted on: 03/26/2019

    Who will win the Sephora vs. Ulta beauty competition?

    Both retailers are winners and cater to different market segments (although many customers shop both depending on the product they are seeking). Ulta’s beauty salon keeps the frequency of visit higher which will drive more profitable sales and consistent traffic. Sephora’s cutting edge brands and focus on artistry will continue to drive newness and innovative experiences. Both brands have strong, yet very different, loyalty programs which are successful with their own target markets. Sephora has higher online sales, reported around 30 percent of sales, whereas, Ulta is around 20 percent. However, the most staggering statistic that puts Ulta ahead is that 95 percent of transactions are from beauty Loyalty Club members who are spending on average $200 per year. Honestly, there is room for both in the U.S. market. Where is Blue Mercury?
  • Posted on: 02/27/2019

    Should retailers blame slow sales on the weather?

    Interesting -- as another BrainTrust member already stated, we rarely see weather as the hero of great sales! Retailers certainly do understand the impact of weather on their business, however, more retailers should be using data and analytics to better predict weather related issues. Companies like Planalytics do exactly this for retailers. What needs to change is retailers need to stop blaming weather for poor sales and start talking about how to better understand predictive analytics to better forecast sales. A historical sales planning model is inherently antiquated in today’s technological environment. Additionally, with speed to markets being faster than any previous time in our industry, modifications on allocations should be less complex than 10 years ago.
  • Posted on: 02/06/2019

    What will Angela Ahrendts’ departure mean for Apple’s retail business?

    Apple seems to transition well through departures of their highly seasoned top talent. I will be excited to see where Ms. Ahrendts goes next as it will most likely be a company where the breadth of her skills can be fully utilized. For the current state of business, I would only caution having the top retail person running HR simultaneously may be too large of a responsibility for continued focus on the retail growth. While having HR report to the head of retail can make sense, there should be a key person replacing the HR role.
  • Posted on: 02/04/2019

    Which commercial won Super Bowl LIII?

    The Super Bowl ads were boring, too complicated and were in misalignment with the target market of the halftime show. What happened to fun ads that sparked an interest to actually buy the product? While my two teenage sons were very excited with the halftime show, I found myself explaining half of the commercials to them. If I had to vote, I would pick the Amazon Alexa spiff, at least it made me laugh. Sadly, there are zero products I am searching out today as a results of yesterday’s commercials. I missed Masterlock and Doritos (did I miss these during my nap?).
  • Posted on: 01/24/2019

    Which retailers deliver the best customer service?

    Great service starts with truly understanding the target market and precisely knowing what are the most important elements of the shopping journey relevant to the market. Then consistently and perpetually delivering each element to the customer at every touch point in the journey. This is not just in the store but across all aspects of the shopping journey including mobile, digital and delivery. Retailers using customer journey mapping and a design thinking approach to building the shopping journey have a higher chance of hitting it right across their target market. Examples of service elements may include differentiated products, value pricing, in-stock inventory, expedited delivery, styling advice, etc. In short, great service is knowing the market, designing the experience and executing consistently across the brand portfolio.
  • Posted on: 01/14/2019

    NRF: Is video analytics the solution to ending long checkout lines?

    Retailers should be looking at ways to remove the queue all together as opposed to managing the queue. Working with many queue management systems, it takes a culture on the store teams' part of actioning the data and, even in the best environments, there is typically inconsistency in performance across a portfolio of stores. Retailers should be investing in technologies that eliminate the check out transactional process and create a seamless payment method such as digital wallet, grab-n-go, mobile check out or mobile payments.
  • Posted on: 12/28/2018

    Camp brings a playground to retail

    Camp is a surefire hit! Experiential, fun and engaging for all “campers.” The rotating theme is excellent and will keep the store interesting and relevant. The sponsorship is a great way to fund the various themes and also allow for a broad creative input. This reminds me of a kids version of STORY in NYC which has been a smashing success.
  • Posted on: 12/27/2018

    Kroger’s private label hits get their own store-within-a-store

    Kroger’s private label brand focus can be a positive if they back up the products with quality like Trader Joe’s who has built up a strong brand reputation. However, keeping all products in one section will be a big mistake. The whole drive in shopping is convenience so creating a separate area that shoppers have to go to first to select product then finish the shopping journey trying to figure out which items they need based on what was selected from Kroger’s own brands, spells confusion and added complexity to what should be a seamless journey. I understand that Kroger wants to "unbury the treasure" but better signing and kiosks may be a better choice.
  • Posted on: 12/20/2018

    Why are holiday gift returns spiking before Christmas this year?

    There are two factors driving increased returns this year which are 1.) as stated already, the increase in online purchasing and 2.) the longer season of shopping. The 32 days of shopping this year which is the longest season possible, coupled with the earliest Thanksgiving possible, allows consumers to shop early and return early. The dynamic of easy returns acts as a catalyst for driving up the return count. However in the next few years, retailers are working hard to minimize the costly impact of returns through the use of AR, AI and machine learning -- enabling technologies that focus on providing the right merchandise with the initial purchase.
  • Posted on: 12/05/2018

    Drugstore/grocery pilot is two-thirds Walgreens and one-third Kroger

    The business model spells convenience for the shopper and assuredly Kroger does grocery and ready-made foods better than Walgreens. The question on cannibalism reminds of when retailers went online and the big question was if it would impact store sales; we all know how that has turned out by building deeper loyalty across more touchpoints. On the Walgreens side, a more edited assortment would help the inventory turn and provide a more focused value proposition to the target market. Holistic wellness and beauty would make the most sense.
  • Posted on: 11/14/2018

    What’s missing from everyday fashion rental subscription services?

    Collaborative consumption is something that resonates with Millennials and Gen Z as does thrift shopping and value-based purchasing. There are a few reasons why this is the case for the digital natives which should be explored. They are more environmentally conscious and would like to see “fast fashion” replaced by slow fashion (albeit this same generation contradicts itself being one of the largest consumers of fast fashion). The digital natives also pride themselves on finding authentic curated products which are worth more to them than the mass market sameness found in our over-stored marketplace. Another reason that collaborative consumption is growing is the fear of debt held by Millennials which means they are not apt to quickly build up credit card debt to finance their wardrobe. Combining all these factors, the rental or joint ownership model is an attractive offering to those generations. However, with that said, it will be a challenging model for the discount or low price retailers as the cost of returns, repacking and other operational costs associated with a rental model will diminish profits. As far as the consumer, renting a Chanel bag is quite different than renting a private label handbag from a mass market retailer. The model has a place in the market but not likely in the discount or low price arena.
  • Posted on: 11/05/2018

    Did Amazon just crush Target and Walmart’s free holiday shipping moves?

    Amazon has a clear advantage over Walmart and Target in terms of holiday based on the free shipping and breadth of assortment. Convenience plus free shipping are key as noted in the survey. However, add to this that much of holiday product is purchased for others so the wait time of free shipping becomes even less important (until we get closer to the holiday). Let’s hope they don’t alienate their Prime members with this move which may be a larger concern.

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