Shelley E. Kohan

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 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: 04/18/2018

    Best Buy and Amazon expand their coopetition

    Amazon and Best Buy is a collaborative partnership of shared intelligence which is a prime example of one of the retail trends happening in the industry. Best Buy offers personalization and in-store enabling technologies that provide personalized service to customers and Amazon offers supreme personalized service from a digital perspective. The learning will come from each other in “collaborative mentoring” with the ultimate winner being the customer. The industry will see more and more examples of shared intelligence and unlikely partnerships. The key is aligning overall strategies and similar views on customer experience. The partnership allows both companies to expand their market reach.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2018

    Who will fill the retailing void left by Toys ‘R’ Us?

    The children’s and toy market have a significant amount of independent players who offer higher levels of one-to-one service which aligns with the mindset of today’s shopper. Additionally, the smaller stores offer curated and differentiated products which is a key retail trend for customers. In a recent interview, I discussed the state of the children’s market. The other aspect which may cause a shift in specifically the toy business is the growing number of streaming video games which has captivated younger audiences (Fortnite for example). While the demographic of streaming games has a tremendous age range 8+ and up, this may take spend away from more traditional toys. The big players will compete on price (Walmart, Amazon, Target) while the smaller players will compete on service.
  • Posted on: 04/13/2018

    REI lifts the sustainability bar

    Love the three P’s! The triple bottom line is something REI has had a keen focus for the company. From giving employees the day off after Thanksgiving (a bold move especially in this climate over the past few years), driving the charge on sustainability standards and setting up a co-op for a customer owned business model gives REI role model status. The good news is that many students are learning about sustainability in coursework today and as they enter the workforce, the future of sustainable models will continue to improve. REI inspires the younger generation of leaders to “act more” and “do more” than generations before them in terms of our planet.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2018

    What makes a successful retail CEO?

    Today’s successful CEO should have situational leadership skills and the ability to understand the importance of having a balanced and diverse workforce. Emotional intelligence has always been a leading indicator of great leaders. The first followers are equally as important as the leaders and creating a band of credible first followers can help leaders execute the vision of the company. Inspirational leaders cultivate a culture of trust and dedication. Lately, great CEOs center every decision around the customer. Great CEOs today are Jane Elfers (Children’s Place), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Howard Schultz (Starbucks), Eileen Fisher. I would put Terry Lundgren on the list, but he retired!
  • Posted on: 04/10/2018

    Can Nordstrom’s full-line men’s store make it in Manhattan?

    Ironically, the main differentiator for Nordstrom will be delivery service. In NY, higher-end retailers' biggest online business comes from customers who live within a 1-2 mile radius of the store. This means that if Nordstrom can “deliver” high quality product to the customer in Manhattan, they will be successful. Nordstrom's loyal customers are the some of the most engaged in the industry and this will certainly align with the top echelon of customers in Manhattan. The legendary knowledgeable sales associates will also contribute to the big win in NYC. For Nordstrom, partnering with hotels and the concierges at the big hotels will help foster sales with the transient customer.
  • Posted on: 04/05/2018

    Retailers push to onboard tech talent

    Retailers have been behind the curve in hiring for tech talent over the past five years, however, in the last two years there has been more of an emphasis of hiring the talent. One challenge is the dearth in the industry for the talent in the field of analytics. Boomers may have extensive experience with deep industry knowledge and may lack tech analytical skills, while newer manager Millennials may have the tech skills without deep industry knowledge. The key is to create mentoring between the generations that can optimize the industry knowledge with the tech talent. Software companies (like SAS) are creating internships that help students learn the field and better market the job opportunities and colleges are creating curriculum to provide courses around tech applications. For example, Fashion Institute of Technology has revamped the courses to better prepare students in the field of analytics (disclaimer: I work there). From a retail perspective, the most important skills to help retailers deliver better service, more efficient operations and innovation solutions are analytics, collaboration on cross-functional teams and advanced problem solving skills.
  • Posted on: 04/04/2018

    Starbucks shifts happy hour to invite-only

    Starbucks's Invite Only initiative certainly addresses the consumer trend of “personalization” by making the rewards members feel special and they are keeping to one of the valuable characteristics of a great reward program of treating top customers like VIPs. However, Starbucks is missing on the current retail trend of convenience and on a key success trait for reward programs of keeping it simple. It is too complicated for the end user to use the reward. For example, it varies each time (by day and offer). If the goal is to increase customer visit frequency, simply double the star points from 3-6 p.m. Programs have to be simple and transparent to use. In the last statistics I have seen, a normal reward member visits Starbucks 18 times per month and the highly loyal Starbucks customer (about 10% of the customers) visits twice a day. Perhaps the goal should be to increase shopper frequency to 2x a day to 20%. Typically, rewards customers are less price sensitive and more profitable so discounting may not be the answer. Giving more rewards points during certain times requires no effort from the customer, allows for customers to choose their own rewards (not limiting to certain products) and redemption is “as earned” which makes the workload less burdensome on the baristas.
  • Posted on: 04/04/2018

    Bed Bath & Beyond offers an exchange for Toys ‘R’ Us gift cards

    BBY was very wise to make an attempt to gain market share by accepting the TRU gift cards. However, BBY should give full credit for the gift card if they want to swoop in and get the customer’s attention. With all of the discounting that BBY does, what would be the logic to play it short with partial redemption? Penny-wise, pound-foolish? The only logic for the redemption of about 64% may be the cost involved by the third party to convert the gift cards to BBY. The timing of redemption seems off as well as noted in other posts. Creatively come up with April Madness and extend the deadline to broaden the possibility of a higher redemption rate. Acquisition rates for new customers is high and by accepting the TRU gift cards, BBY can gain market share at a relatively low cost.
  • Posted on: 03/29/2018

    Do men and women still shop differently?

    Women and men do shop differently, first and foremost, MEN DON’T HUNT when it comes to shopping. They live on the premise of “what does it do, why do I need it and how much is it.” Applying any more effort than this is not traditionally how men shop. Hence, when shopping for discount merchandise they are not ones to shop in off-price retailers and more likely to shop in outlet specially stores. While traditional shopping behaviors of men and women have generally remained unchanged over time, even with the advent of technology as the article suggests, it would be prudent for retailers to fully understand their target markets before making significant changes in the gender segmentation. For example, the target markets of Millennials and Gen Z have a broader segment of non-binary which is people who do not identify with either gender. In this case, retailers who have these target markets may want to develop strategies that create opportunities of less segmentation whereas the target market of Boomers may want to keep segmentation based on gender.
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