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: 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.
  • 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.

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