Kohl's CEO Kevin Mansell to retire in 2018

Key Points
  • Kohl's Chairman and CEO Kevin Mansell will retire in May.
  • He'll be succeeded by Chief Merchandising and Customer Officer Michelle Gass.
  • COO Sona Chawla will become president.
Kevin Mansell, CEO, Kohl's
Michael Newberg | CNBC

Kohl's said Tuesday Chairman and CEO Kevin Mansell will retire in May, having served 35 years with the department store chain.

Mansell will be succeeded by Chief Merchandising and Customer Officer Michelle Gass, who spent nearly two decades working at coffee giant Starbucks and began her career with Procter & Gamble.

The board plans to appoint one of its independent members as chairman, effective when Mansell retires at the close of Kohl's 2018 shareholders meeting. Gass will stand for election to the company's board at that time.

The company also said it tapped Sona Chawla, its chief operating officer as president. Prior to joining Kohl's, Chawla worked at Walgreens Boots Alliance.

"We believe these are strong internal promotions with the necessary skill set to take KSS to the next level," Jefferies analyst Randal Konik wrote in a Tuesday note to clients. "We continue to view KSS as a share gainer, and see further [opportunity] as initiatives take hold."

Konik noted that Gass has been spearheading Kohl's latest partnership with Amazon.

Just last week, Kohl's announced it will accept Amazon returns at 82 locations. The department store chain has also begun selling Amazon devices, such as the Echo and Fire tablets, at 10 stores.

For Kohl's, these deals could lure more shoppers into its stores, as falling foot traffic has become a threatening trend in retail.

In an interview with CNBC, Mansell said Gass has "an amazing ability to lead teams and inspire people."

"Everything in her development and growth, for example, bringing in new brands, our collaboration with Amazon, these are all indications about someone that has a mind for innovation, which is a litmus test in this environment," Mansell said.

Mansell's nearly decade-long tenure as CEO coincided with the Great Recession. During that time, he grew the retailer's e-commerce business to $3 billion in sales.

In a statement, Gass acknowledged the challenges the industry faces.

"We are resilient, innovative and agile, and will continue to make investments in our business to provide compelling customer experiences that pave the path for our future success," the incoming CEO said.

Kohl's shares were off less than 1 percent in trading Tuesday. The stock has fallen about 6 percent in 2017, but is up more than 20 percent during the past three months.

—CNBC's Courtney Reagan contributed to this reporting.

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