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: 11/12/2021

    Frontline workers say management isn’t listening to them

    The competition among employers is gaining steam with many retailers trying to become employers of choice. The power of employment is shifting from the employer to the employee. Workers are demanding more from employers including making their own shifts, working from where they want, asking for more pay -- and they are getting these things right now. This may also be the rise of union power in the U.S. market as employees are feeling more confident and courageous to “go up against management” and unionize for better pay, benefits, etc. So retailers NEED to listen up to workers and allow employees to be heard and actively part of the solutions for workplace issues. Open door policies, using apps to collect employee feedback, roundtables (virtual and face-to-face) and being on the front lines to hear from workers will also create open communication lines. A key point for this multigenerational workforce is to REDUCE THE STATUS DIFFERENCE between management and workers.
  • Posted on: 06/09/2021

    Did the pandemic fundamentally shift retailer/vendor relationships?

    One of the biggest shifts with retailers and vendors is the drop-ship, D2C, and/or concessions models. Inventory investments are a substantial financial burden for large companies (department stores, large chain stores), so having the vendors ship directly to consumers helps elevate this burden. With that said, there is a risk that the customer may start buying directly from the vendor. The other major change with retailers and vendors is a more collaborative supply chain to help mitigate markdowns and slow sellers while, at the same time, improving agility with orders including speed to market. Long term the industry will see reduced inventory holdings by retailers and more direct-to-consumer partnerships.
  • Posted on: 06/08/2021

    Amazon offers ‘returnships’ for professionals rejoining the labor market

    It is interesting to see the continued efforts by Amazon to think about the workforce and its people. Returnships will be a big success and many retailers ARE missing the boat by continuing to look at gaps in employment as a negative. NRF created RISE Up in 2017 to help upskill workers for jobs in retail. These types of programs provide potential employees the skills required to be successful. Companies can look inward at hiring practices and look for relevant ways to get America back to work. Amazon has made the call to action and retailers should be listening as the workforce is shrinking.
  • Posted on: 05/12/2021

    Are two PacSun CEOs better than one?

    Co-CEO's is a message to the company that it is not confident in the full skillset of either leader. I am all for shared leadership in terms of roles and responsibilities but at the end of the day, the buck needs to stop somewhere clear. Employees in the workforce need a clear direction of the company's strategy which can be muddled with two CEOs. The only time it really works is in the case of co-founders taking on the CEO job jointly like Warby Parker or Allbirds. However as the business really scales in size, it may be better served with one CEO.
  • Posted on: 05/11/2021

    Can TikTok stars build brands for digital natives?

    TikTok as a form of marketing is brilliant if the audience to capture is Gen Z, and the immediacy of the content is highly engaging. With that said, creating an apparel line specifically for this channel could pose some challenges in terms of distribution (850+ stores) and consistency of product authenticity. Having a product line just to satisfy a marketing plan may not have long-term staying power, but if the product assortment fills a need in an over-saturated market, it could be a big win for a troubled brand.
  • Posted on: 03/15/2021

    The next evolution of the supply chain will be all about visibility

    Visibility in the supply chain is critical but the most important aspects in terms of supply chain agility include collaborations across vendors and a more holistic view of the supply chain from raw materials to consumption (product-life cycle management). Both automation and demand sensing acts as processes enabling full PLM.
  • Posted on: 03/12/2021

    Will CEO transition look good on Ulta Beauty?

    Mary Dillon leads through servant leadership, always putting employees and customers at the center of every decision. She makes strong business decisions while leading with empathy. She has made Ulta Beauty a household name and expanded the loyalty program significantly since being CEO. Dave Kimbell will make an excellent replacement and has been succession-planned for the past seven years so an understanding of the customer and culture has already been established. His former background with PepsiCo, Seventh Generation, and U.S. Cellular will be beneficial in his new role!
  • Posted on: 03/05/2021

    Will Tonal shops help Nordstrom strengthen its fitness cred?

    The partnership with Tonal is a move by Nordstrom to meet its goal of increasing concessions from 5 percent to 30 percent of its business model. The Tonal shops will add to the experience of shopping in Nordstrom but will not become a destination for athleisure products. The partnership seems more beneficial to Tonal by expanding its footprint. Nordstrom's appeal is directed at fashion apparel goods and a great shopping experience. Tonal adds to the latter. A broader strategy would be to incorporate Zella (the Nordstrom Made line) into the experience with Tonal. Perhaps having fitness demonstrations in the store will add to the experience.
  • Posted on: 03/05/2021

    Will Walmart make a sizable impact with its latest ‘Made in USA’ commitments?

    Walmart's expertise and highly efficient supply chain, specifically its IT infrastructure, focus on automation and distribution network, can certainly make the company a leader in U.S. manufacturing if it is willing to collaborate in the industry and share practices. Investments in American products will create loyalty with its core customer and certainly with the younger generational cohort, but be warned -- the consumer wants to buy American but does not always want to pay the higher price for American-made products.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2021

    Walmart gives workers a raise and weighs in on the minimum wage debate

    It is important for companies to show a mutual commitment to employees and raising wages, it certainly demonstrates the company's willingness to invest in its people. Additionally, being an "employer of choice" is a growing importance and future employees have greater expectations of companies doing the right things, including paying a "fair wage." Indexing is an excellent way to make sure stores stay in business and profitable and the two largest cost contributors to labor markets are location and cost of living.
  • Posted on: 01/04/2021

    Will Giant Food’s shelf labels with diversity call-outs drive sales?

    The retail industry should foster opportunities that support minority-owned businesses or any small businesses for that matter. From a consumer perspective, as Gen Z and Millennials' buying power grows, their purchasing decisions are value-based and they are seeking to do business with companies that demonstrate CSR and provide equity to all brands. Highlighting brands that are minority-owned is a great way to demonstrate that Giant is paying attention to DEI (diversity-equity-inclusion) initiatives. From an employer perspective, it is a great way to demonstrate to the workers actions around DEI. Gen Z and Millennials want to work with companies that have CSR initiatives so it can make Giant an employer of choice. For big companies like Ahold Delhaize, paying it forward to support smaller businesses and provide equitable opportunities to all vendors is a positive for the industry.
  • Posted on: 12/28/2020

    Should retail CEOs be on social media?

    If the target market and the employees expect to see their leadership on social media, then the CEO should build that voice. Be warned, however, it must be authentic as today's consumers can read through any form of conversation that is not true to the brand. Doug McMillon has been a great example of staying on brand, I enjoy reading his posts which are a combination of employee and customer-centered. Levi is another great example of having an authentic brand voice on social media.
  • Posted on: 12/21/2020

    How is Nike excelling at driving loyalty with digital?

    Nike’s digital business allows the brand to continue to connect with its members and increase sales despite store closings and restricted occupancy. Nike has added over 70 million members to its loyalty program this year. Over 60 million customers across 25 countries participated in Member’s Day, a new event providing unique retail moments, first access to products, exclusive products and added rewards. Other brands can take a page from Nike's DTC strategy. Three years ago, Nike reduced the number of wholesale distributors to focus on the direct-to-consumer market. The brand went from over 30,000 distributors down to focus on 40 of them. This pivot allowed Nike to maintain control of the brand and keep close ties with its customers, a strategy called “Consumer Direct Offense.”
  • Posted on: 12/17/2020

    Is there a secret sauce to Kroger’s online success?

    Kroger's shift to digital is a prime example of the benefits of having a flexible and nimble strategy with the ability to make quick decisions. Kroger has spent time, money and other resources to build a back of house infrastructure and supply chain that is robust enough to deliver a digital business. As one of the top U.S. retailers (currently ranked #3), it has a tremendous business that it can change on a dime, unlike the battleship of Macy's, so it is not a surprise that Kroger moved up on the e-commerce top ten list. As a side note, as another indicator of great leadership, Kroger was one of the first retailers early in the pandemic to share best practices for handling the new environment in its Blueprint for Success.
  • Posted on: 12/17/2020

    Is the pandemic pushing livestream shopping into the mainstream?

    Livestreaming will take off in the U.S. market as it directly hits upon a few key consumer trends of convenience, personalization and loyalty. Directly connecting with customers in this type of event will drive loyalty. Customers will feel special and like part of the "in-crowd." Brands will also be able to capitalize on other types of digital commerce such as one-to-one FaceTime, TikTok and other social commerce avenues. Livestreaming is the tip of the iceberg and will open up other opportunities for brands to build loyalty, especially DTC brands. There will be higher user adoption on the fashion and beauty side of the industry.

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