Kohl's Names Michelle Gass to Be New CEO -- 3rd Update
By Suzanne Kapner
Soon after joining Kohl's Corp. as chief customer officer in 2013, Michelle Gass gave employees a pep talk at the retailer's headquarters in Menomonee Falls, Wis.
Kohl's sales had begun to falter after several years of postrecession growth, and the department-store chain, like its competitors, was grappling with how to adapt to the shift to online shopping.
Ms. Gass told the gathering that Kohl's needed to think differently and shouldn't be afraid to try new ideas, a departure for the company, recalled an employee in attendance.
That openness to change has served Ms. Gass well. On Tuesday, Kohl's said the 49-year-old would succeed Kevin Mansell as chief executive in May, becoming the 55-year-old company's first female CEO.
Ms. Gass wasn't schooled in the art of selling dresses, suits and other department-store fare. After studying chemical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and receiving a master's in business administration from the University of Washington, she spent six years honing her marketing skills at Procter & Gamble Co. before joining Starbucks Corp. in 1996.
When she departed the coffee chain after nearly 17 years, CEO Howard Schultz credited her with helping develop such products as the Frappuccino.
Ms. Gass earned kudos as a marketer who "always gave very clear direction," said Craig Weatherup, a longtime Starbucks director.
Her responsibilities as chief customer officer at Kohl's included marketing and e-commerce but were expanded in 2015 to include those of chief merchandising officer, giving her responsibility for all of its products.