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: 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.
  • Posted on: 07/25/2018

    Lululemon goes shopping and finds its new CEO at Sephora

    Bravo Lululemon! Calvin McDonald will make a significant impact on the Lululemon brand from a customer perspective. His experience and background in converging the digital and physical worlds into a consistent experience for the customer could be a big win for the athletic brand. Creating a wellness ecosystem and engaging community for the customers are areas where Mr. McDonald can contribute greatly. The beauty and wellness industries are synergistic, and with the current state of business at Lululemon, he should hit the ground running. A first priority would be to ensure the back-of-house infrastructure is set up to support technological advances and cross-channel strategies that favorably impact the totality of the customer experience through all platforms (digital, brick-and-mortar, social media, etc.).
  • Posted on: 07/23/2018

    McDonald’s offers free fries for mobile orders

    Incentivizing mobile purchasing is a great way create habits with the target market to use the app across multiple channels. Starbucks was a pioneer in creating a “need” for the customer to use the app (earning points, advance ordering, simple payment process, etc). The challenge for the end-user is which apps stay on the mobile device and which ones don’t make the cut (for a variety of reasons). Users can only juggle so many apps which means McDonald’s need to make sure the process is seamless, simple and serves the needs of the customer. Otherwise, a year of free fries still won’t make the cut.
  • Posted on: 07/12/2018

    New CEO focused on keeping the Dunkin’ brand relevant

    The brand has more than 12,000 distribution points and a significant amount of revenue is generated through franchise and royalty fees. The consistency issue across stores needs to be addressed and David Hoffmann is the man to get this done based on his background. Other positive factors attributed to Dunkin’ include the addition of more than 2 million customers to the loyalty program driving significant repeat traffic, the expansion of 440 new stores and the increase of Dunkin’-branded CPG by 30 percent. The next-gen concept stores is a win for today’s customers (convenience, time and value) and creating additional touch points with branded products fuels the loyalty connection. While sales were better than the retail industry trend, more impressive is the increase of operating income vs. LY of more than 7 percent. David Hoffmann has Dunkin’ headed in the right direction. The greatest opportunity for Dunkin’ is to stay on-brand and not become Starbucks.
  • Posted on: 07/06/2018

    Urban Outfitters buys into installment payment plan

    Note: I work with Afterpay. A win-win for customers, retailers and brands: Retailers such as Urban Outfitters, Sephora, MAC and others have shown a growing interest in adopting payment platforms that allow shoppers to buy now and pay later. Afterpay shifts the financial economics in favor of the customer, taking the burden and risk off of the retailer’s shoulders. The partnership helps retailers achieve their goals of driving sales, increasing conversion and creating a more engaged shopper base. Customers love the product with an 85 percent repeat rate, and 8x visit frequency rate per year. About 64 percent of Americans aged 16 to 36 do not own a credit card (according to a survey) so this may be a good option. Free shipping is the minimum expectation, pay over time is an added convenience which promotes greater spending.
  • Posted on: 06/27/2018

    Survey finds marketers struggle to deliver personalized content

    There is a plethora of enabling technologies in the marketplace that can help with various aspects of marketing automation which creates the issue of deciding the most significant ones that can impact individual businesses. For example, A/B testing which is 28 percent effective in the survey and 30 percent more difficult can be easier to implement with companies like Market Dial. Or measuring in-store shopping behavior can be less difficult with a company like RetailNext (note: I am a technical fellow at this company). The pain point for brands and retailers is to figure out which enabling technologies across all functions would best align with the over-reaching strategies of the company. The IT roadmaps need to be carefully planned to support all functions with a synergistic approach inclusive of marketing, operations, merchandising and human resources.

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