By Michelle Graff
Michelle Gass, right, will take over as CEO of Kohl’s Corp. next spring, succeeding Kevin Mansell, left, who started with the retailer as a divisional merchandise manager in 1982 and became its CEO in 2008.
Menomonee Falls, Wis.--Off-price department store chain Kohl’s announced Tuesday that President and CEO Kevin Mansell will retire in May 2018 after the company’s annual shareholders meeting.

Chief Merchandising and Customer Officer Michelle Gass will become the retailer’s new CEO, with Chief Operating Officer Sona Chawla stepping into the role of president.

Mansell, 65, has been with Kohl’s for a total of 35 years. He has spent 19 years on the board and almost 10 years as CEO.

Gass, 49, joined Kohl’s in 2013 as chief customer officer, heading the retailer’s marketing and e-commerce business. In 2015, her role expanded to include responsibility for merchandising, planning and product development.

Before she worked at Kohl’s, Gass spent about 17 years at Starbucks overseeing marketing, beverage and food merchandising, and global strategy.

20170927 Sona ChawlaSona ChawlaChawla, 50, started at Kohl’s as COO in 2015. Before that, she oversaw e-commerce, digital and marketing at Walgreens and also worked as vice president of global online business at Dell Inc.

As president, she will maintain her responsibilities for the retailer’s omnichannel operations.

The change in leadership at Kohl’s comes at a time when brick-and-mortar retailers are under immense pressure from online competitors and are struggling to reinvent themselves in the digital age.

Many are closing hundreds of stores while downsizing others, and funneling resources into digital operations while, at the same time, trying to give consumers a reason to come into stores.

Like Kohl’s, many retailers, including jewelry industry giants Signet Jewelers and Tiffany & Co., are making changes at the top.

Ahead of the holiday season, Kohl’s announced that it is partnering with Amazon to open shop-in-shops at 10 of its stores in the Los Angeles and Chicago areas that will sell Amazon “smart” home products, like Amazon Echo and Fire TV.

In the company statement announcing his retirement, Mansell credited Gass with engineering the retailer’s partnership with Amazon.

“The retail industry is going through a transformational amount of change and Michelle is extremely qualified and positioned to lead Kohl’s through this evolution,” he said.

Kohl’s said its board plans to appoint one of its current independent members as chairman when Mansell retires next spring. Gass will be nominated to fill the vacancy created by Mansell’s retirement.

Kohl’s Corp. ranked No. 22 on National Jeweler’s 2016 “$100 Million Supersellers” list, with an estimated $279 million in watch and jewelry sales in 2015.

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