Kohl's is facing a new future with a new chairman as Larry Montgomery retires and Kevin Mansell takes over the chairman of the board slot.
Montgomery, who is only three years older than Mansell, led the company's rapid rise to national prominence. And while Kohl's still has room to grow, it's also a maturing retailer. Mansell has been given the freedom to deal with taking what had been a new idea and keeping it compelling.
As was the case with Bob Ulrich at Target and Jeff Noddle at Supervalu, Kohl's is getting a new top kick at a time when things are changing rapidly at retail, when national chains have become dominant forces rather than fresh ideas and when the dynamics of the market no longer provide the opportunity to grow profitably by opening up scads of new stores that win out based just on efficiencies and scale.
When Montgomery joined Kohl's in 1988 as senior vice president and director of stores, Kohl's operated less than 100 units and last year it surpassed a thousand. Yet, going forward, the company's fate will be increasingly dependent on building store productivity rather than new locations, a task Montgomery leaves to Mansell.
When Mansell took over as CEO from Montgomery a year ago, he already held the president's title and had responsibility for product development, logistics/store planning, merchandise planning, information systems, electronic commerce, marketing and business development, or, in sum, those areas that are critical to getting more out of existing stores.
As a departing thought, a Kohl's statement has Montgomery saying of Mansell, "His strategic vision and continued demonstrated ability to successfully lead, especially in today's increasingly challenging and competitive marketplace, positions Kohl's for long term success."
And from the corporate point of view, Kohl's reiterated in the statement that it would continue to focus on four strategic initiatives that have been key drivers as Mansell has taken over responsibility for the chain: merchandising, marketing, inventory management and the in-store experience.