he National Retail Federation today announced that it will name Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass as “The Visionary,” an award given each year to an outstanding leader in the retail industry. The award will be presented during the sixth annual NRF Foundation Honors on January 12, 2020, in New York City.
“In today’s competitive and evolving retail landscape, companies need leaders who are willing to take risks to make more meaningful, personal connections with their customers,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Michelle has cultivated an environment at Kohl’s where risk-taking is encouraged, which has never been more important than in today’s dynamic retail environment. Her extensive retail experience and instinctive understanding of what customers want has already solidified her reputation as a transformative leader, and we can’t wait to see what she does next.”
The Visionary award is presented each year to a retail executive with a proven track record of spearheading change in the industry. Earlier this year, prominent retail executives were asked to identify an individual who has changed and continues to transform the retail landscape in a positive way. Gass was selected for her success in driving momentum in the Kohl’s business and fostering a culture of innovation and inspiration among Kohl’s associates. As the company’s first female CEO, Gass has led Kohl’s focus on becoming an active and wellness destination, launched Kohl’s new loyalty program and is responsible for bringing in new categories, partners and brands, from Amazon to Under Armour.
Former recipients include Nike Chairman, President and CEO Mark Parker; Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon; and Levi Strauss & Co. President and CEO Chip Bergh.
Gass will also be a keynote speaker at NRF’s 109th annual convention, NRF 2020 Vision: Retail’s Big Show, where over 38,000 retailers from nearly 100 countries will gather in New York January 12-14 to address the latest trends, innovations and strategies for transformation.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized by NRF,” Gass said. “I’m incredibly proud of our Kohl’s associates who work hard each day to deliver greatness for our customers, and who are driving our business priorities for our long-term growth. It’s a transformative time in retail, and we’re excited to come to the table with new and innovative ideas that fuel the future of our company and retail industry.”
Gass joined Kohl’s in 2013 as chief customer officer and was named chief merchandising and customer officer in 2015. She was promoted to CEO-elect in October 2017 and assumed the role of CEO in May 2018. As CEO, Gass is responsible for Kohl’s overall strategy and operations, overseeing more than 1,100 Kohl’s stores in 49 states, Kohls.com and 130,000 associates nationwide. Gass is driving an ambitious plan for growth, forging new partnerships with innovative players like Amazon, Nine West, Elizabeth and James, Lego, Under Armour, Aldi and Planet Fitness. She is also positioning Kohl’s as a leading omnichannel retailer – building out the company’s digital capabilities, omnichannel operations and online growth. Gass has championed innovative thinking and bold initiatives at Kohl’s and is transforming the company’s culture to embrace new ideas that excite customers and allow the company to thrive throughout the dynamic times in retail.
Prior to Kohl’s, Gass spent more than 16 years at Starbucks Corporation, holding a variety of leadership roles across marketing, global strategy and merchandising, including president of Starbucks Europe, Middle East and Africa. Gass has more than 25 years of experience in the retail and consumer goods industries.
The NRF Foundation Honors, formerly known as the NRF Foundation Gala, raised $3.2 million in 2019 to fund the Foundation’s work promoting retail as an industry of opportunity and providing resources to prepare people for retail jobs that lead to promising careers. Now in its sixth year, the 2020 Honors will celebrate today’s leaders in retail and the impact of the Foundation’s philanthropic work.