- Kohl’s on Thursday announced interim CEO Tom Kingsbury will assume the role permanently. Kingsbury had led the company since December following the departure of former CEO Michelle Gass, who left the company late last year to become president of Levi’s.
- Along with two other independent directors, Kingsbury joined Kohl’s board of directors in 2021 as part of a settlement with activist investors. Kingsbury will retain his board seat while serving as CEO.
- In connection with Kingsbury’s move to CEO, Kohl’s said it’s entered a cooperation agreement with one of those investors, Macellum Advisors. Under the agreement, Macellum has agreed to a multi-year standstill agreement and other provisions.
Tom Kingsbury is stepping into a new leadership role just days after the retailer confirmed about 60 marketing and merchandising employees based at the company’s corporate headquarters were laid off. The move was necessary “to drive greater efficiency in our operations,” Kohl’s said.
Kingsbury also will likely face the challenge of improving the company’s financial performance. Sales slowed in the third quarter. Revenue fell 7% to $4.3 billion, net income fell by 60% to $97 million, and the company withdrew its guidance for 2022. The company has not yet reported its Q4 and 2022 annual earnings.
The investor group, including Macellum, has been highly critical of the company’s management, merchandising, and customer engagement strategies. The investors had pushed Kohl’s to “unlock” what it said was billions of dollars of real estate value through sale-leasebacks.
Michael Bender, independent director and chair of the board’s nominating and ESG committee, said in a statement that the board is looking forward to “continued support and partnership” with Macellum.
Kingsbury has more than 40 years of retail industry experience. He was president and CEO of Burlington Stores from 2008 to 2019 and served on Burlington’s board of directors from 2008 to 2020, including as chairman from 2014 to 2019 and as executive chairman from 2019 to 2020.
“This is a pivotal time for Kohl’s, and I am excited and energized to work with our talented team to elevate our performance and create value,” Kingsbury said.
Based near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Kohl’s has about 1,100 stores in 49 states and nearly 100,000 associates. The company also has nine distribution centers and six e-commerce fulfillment centers. In its 2021 10-K, Kohl’s said about 35,000 of those people worked full-time and 64,000 worked part-time. In that same report, the company said 27% of its 2021 sales were in the women’s segment, followed by 21% in mens and 18% in the home segment. Sixty-six percent of sales were national brands.