Shelley E. Kohan

Assistant 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: 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.
  • Posted on: 10/22/2018

    How should retail employers prepare for Gen Z workers?

    The industry should first recognize that Gen Z is looking for simplified workflows and solutions ("life hacks”) so providing mechanisms for using employee feedback for the betterment of the company will go a long way. Gen Z are good-natured and want to make a difference and appreciate positive feedback. Obviously, technology will play a role in learning (training) so using intuitive learning management systems that are “quick” lessons will go a long way with this generation. Lastly, most Gen Z are not looking for jobs or work but are wanting to find ways to contribute their passion into an industry that resonates with them translating into more engaged workers!
  • Posted on: 10/08/2018

    Will the Birchbox/Walgreens pilot deliver beautiful results?

    The big winner here is Walgreens by immediately increasing their beauty assortment to a better mix of highly coveted brands. However, to deliver in the goal of providing these brands to an underserved market, the training of sales consultants in Walgreens would need to be executed well. Typical associates would be hard pressed to answer any type of beauty-related questions. The customized experience of "build your Birchbox" is an excellent idea provided the product assortment will be at price accepted by the Walgreens beauty shopper. The newly launched Beauty Enthusiast Club will certainly resonate with the Walgreens customer and having Birchbox would add nicely to the rewards program. The question that remains unclear is if the current Walgreens target market would be willing to pay the price of the current assortment of Birchbox products. There may be a better win if a diffusion line or exclusive Walgreens line was created but maybe that is in the works already.
  • Posted on: 10/05/2018

    Is Target ready for Amazon and Walmart this holiday season?

    Target has consistently been more of a fashion discount store than Walmart or Amazon, so comparing the private label brands would not make sense. Target has done a good job with collaborations and exclusive merchandise. In addition to what others have already contributed, from an operational perspective, Target has invested heavily on the back side of the business with infrastructure and technology which translates to seamless shopping in the front of house. For example, using vendor replenishment for staple items keeps Target in-stock of basic items. Or creating a significantly better experience at customer service desks by using technology to more easily transact returns (you don’t even need your receipt). The efforts on the supply chain side to improve efficiencies have made a great impact on right product, right store and right time. Amazon has already been doing this for years so Target is catching up to the level playing field. With that said, this holiday is showing signs of positive results across all retailers. First half of 2018 is up 5.4% in total retail sales as compared to LY at 3.9% for the same period. Some of the positive comps are attributed to the strong economic indicators.
  • Posted on: 09/26/2018

    What’s Dunkin’ without Donuts in its name?

    The name with or without Donuts will not matter with the target market. Dropping actual donuts from the menu (which they are not doing) would be a grave mistake. From a marketing perspective, it will be a fun way to connect with the customers and create buzz over the next few months. However, since dropping the name will not change the fundamental business strategy to what they are currently on the road to achieve, I would question the expense at such a significant change. With same store sales at only 1.4 percent for Q2 compared to total retail sales growth at 4.4 percent, investing the money into stores and strengthening the store portfolio may drive more sales than a name change that is neutral among the target market.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2018

    What will it take for consumers to take out their mobile wallets?

    CONVENIENCE will drive mobile wallet usage. Today’s consumer wants to experience value which is in terms of time and money. Mobile wallet can offer a substantial savings of time ONLY if the consumer does not have to pull out the mobile device. In other words, like others have already stated, there is not a huge time savings in pulling out the mobile device vs. the credit card or wallet. However, if the consumer can select and exit with a seamless transaction, mobile wallet adoption will explode.
  • Posted on: 09/07/2018

    Saks Off 5th launches off-price private labels

    Not be a nay-sayer here, but Saks building a private-label brand for a market (next-gen) that currently is not their target market will be difficult. Focusing on securing better brands and designer collaborations for the outlet side would prove to be a more successful path. People shop outlet for name brands at lower prices not to secure inexpensive fashion from the unknown. Macy’s tried to secure next-gen with Bar III and it never resonated with the proposed market. Let’s not forget when Saks walked away from private label (Real Clothes) around 2004-2005 leaving their customers high and dry. I would like to be proven wrong but this is a misstep for Saks.
  • Posted on: 08/29/2018

    Amazon’s warehouse workers become social cheerleaders

    Today’s employees want to be able to share and provide feedback to employers (good or bad) and opportunities to provide feedback should be part of a company culture. There are many social media outlets and websites (Glassdoor) that are avenues for employees to express themselves. All too often, disengaged employees are the ones that utilize the external outlets to complain. There is no issue for companies to ask employees to post positives about the company. One of the best recruitment methods is referrals. A company should never ask employees to lie or post false accolades. The ambassador program is wonderful and provides intrinsic rewards for employees.
  • Posted on: 08/27/2018

    REI finds an audience for used gear

    REI shows again their commitment to the environment and their customers. Allowing customers to buy gently used outdoorwear and gear is a great model. REI is not trading down or losing sales to full price but is adding MORE reasons for customers to be loyal to the brand. In addition, REI demonstrates their delivery of quality products that withstand the wear. The member-to-member gear swaps help deepen customer relations through building community involvement that BENEFITS the customer. The premise, which I agree, is to decrease the barrier (the cost) that may prevent people from participating in an outdoor activity.
  • Posted on: 08/27/2018

    Shoppers may finally be using retail apps

    Many great points in the discussion. I would only add that as Gen Z begins entry into their careers next year after college graduation, we would expect higher app use. However, this may include streaming movies and games and not necessarily retail apps. YouTube is the #2 on the list which, again, given the aging of the Gen Z makes perfect sense. The apps that help with utilitarian shopping will also increase like grocery store apps that spell c-o-n-v-e-n-i-e-n-c-e for Millennials and Gen Z. And Amazon fits into that niche, along with the intuitiveness of the app itself which explains the wide use.
  • Posted on: 08/20/2018

    Three reasons why Gen Z ignores your loyalty program

    The most significant way to engage Gen Z in a loyalty program is to link the interactions to social media. Gen Z needs to be able to EASILY and quickly participate in the program so minimal effort to engage is essential. Additionally, “reacting” to or responding to feedback from Gen Z on social media will create higher loyalty. For example, responding to a Gen Z post on Instagram will demonstrate the company’s commitment to the customer. Gen Z looks for immediate reaction to social media posts. The loyalty points mean less than getting positive affirmation on social media posts.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2018

    Rite Aid and Albertsons call off merger – what’s next?

    Albertsons and Rite Aid are struggling in their format segments so its probably best that they both focus on how they can remain competitive in their respective industries. The merger would have been a distraction at a time when laser focus is required for a critical turnaround for both retailers. With that said, the idea of grocery plus RX seems to be a good play for brands that are looking for additional distribution channels and a partnership of both segments is a win for the consumer in their quest for all things convenient. However, Albertsons and Rite Aid are not ready for this type of move. Albertsons should focus on identifying where their sustainable competitive advantages are in the current grocery landscape and how they can differentiate themselves as the competition heats up. Rite Aid should be focused on a category assessment of current offerings (suggest ready-made foods on a wide scale), their loyalty program (a bit too complex), their convergence of digital and physical and size formats.
  • Posted on: 08/06/2018

    Kroger takes on Visa

    Kroger has their PLCC (private label credit card) which customers can get with rewards, however, customers typically do not want more cards. The solution of using a digital wallet makes the most sense. The marketing of the issue to the customers can build a strong case for Kroger if done right (Kroger’s stance must be in favor of not raising prices to accommodate higher fees so they gain customer support). Otherwise, taking away a payment option is never a good idea. With that said, Millennials and Gen Z are less likely to even have credit cards (63 percent do not have a credit card and prefer to use debit cards), so this move may be ahead of the times.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2018

    Zara bets on faster deliveries from stores to boost online growth

    From an inventory perspective, using the same inventory for online and stores makes sense. The challenge, however, is in the execution from store staff. Support teams in-store are already overwhelmed with pricing, merchandise display, receiving and placing new goods on the floor same-day and daily R&R (replenishment and recovery), so to further distract teams with filling online orders with stringent deadlines to meet customer delivery expectations needs to be thoroughly planned out. Moving into the holiday, the process becomes exacerbated with the high online demands encompassing steep peaks during narrow time frames (see my article from last year). With that said, if any retailer was going to nail the execution of store fulfillment, Zara would be a top contender. With the highly complex and sophisticated infrastructure coupled with management's precise ability to execute other elements of the business at consistently high levels, Zara will be the pioneer in making store fulfillment a winning proposition.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2018

    Can Tesco beat Aldi and Lidl at their own game?

    The grocery store sector is rich with competition, mergers and many distribution points optimized with economies of scale. For Tesco, they have a great brand and should focus on product differentiation, in-store experience and mastering grocery home delivery (or click and collect). Trying a new (or revisited) discount format may end them up in the same place as before. If however, Jack’s can morph itself into a warehouse club format, they may show some promise with highly-edited content sold in bulk.

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