Kohl’s CMO Quits Amid Merchandising Shifts

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Kohl'sMenomonee Falls, WI—The resignation of Donald Brennan, chief merchandising officer at Kohl’s Corp., is seen by analysts as underscoring the shifting strategy at the company.

Kohl’s disclosed Brennan’s departure in a filing Monday, noting that he will be leaving the company on April 1.

Gass Front-Runner for Next CEO?

The resignation is the latest in a line of management changes, and follows a 12% drop in fourth-quarter earnings to $334 million in the three months to Feb. 1, and a 3.8% slide in sales to $6.1 billion.

It could also be positioning chief customer officer Michelle Gass “as front-runner for CEO in the future,” according to UBS analyst Michael Binetti. Gass was hired from Starbucks in last year.

Binetti also notes that the CMO position is key at Kohl’s as the company undergoes a merchandise strategy transition. But he points out that CEO Kevin Mansell was previously CMO, “so has a good working knowledge of the merchandising function to fill the gap during the search for a replacement.”

In the interim, all merchants will report directly to Mansell. The company is expected to fill the CMO position from outside rather than an internal promotion.

Speaking of Gass, the former Starbucks Corp. executive, who joined Kohl’s last June, the fillings show she received more than $12.1 million in compensation for her first year, making her the highest paid executive at Kohl’s during fiscal year 2013.

In addition to a $1 million signing incenstive, Gass also received restricted stock with a grant date value of $8 million to make up for equity she gave up when she resigned from Starbucks. Those bonuses were enough to exceed even Mansell’s. Her base salary was $927,200, the same as Brennan.

Mansell received total compensation of $8.2 million, which was 4.6% higher than 2012 but less than his 2011 compensation of $9.4 million. His base salary was $1.3 million.