How Kohl’s CEO Says Motherhood Helped Her Seal That Game-Changing Amazon Partnership

There are tons of adages about hardworking mothers and their inexplicable ability to get things done. But Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass may want to add motherhood to her résumé if childrearing — as she suggested — is indeed to be credited with helping her seal one of retail’s most talked-about new partnerships.

“Any mother, any parent, is courageous. No mother is stronger than when she is fighting for her kids. The same is true as a leader,” Gass told attendees when she took to the stage today in New York at the 41st annual Outstanding Mother Awards. “Leadership courage is an attribute I seek to encourage in myself and the mothers I work with … we’re trying to build leadership courage as part of the Kohl’s culture. I don’t think we’d be sitting here today embarking on a transformational partnership with Amazon — about to accept Amazon returns … into all of our stores across the country — [without it].”

Kohl’s last month announced the “transformational” deal that would see the department store expand its partnership with the e-tail giant starting in July, allowing customers to make returns from Amazon to all of its brick-and-mortar locations with no additional fees. Kohl’s expects the partnership to positively impact sales, as more foot traffic could persuade shoppers to make purchases after they’ve returned their unwanted items. Amazon, meanwhile, will enjoy new benefits from making returns even more hassle-free and convenient for many of its customers.

Gass, who joined Kohl’s in 2013 as chief customer officer and became CEO last year, was one of four women to be honored at the luncheon today. During her speech, the executive and mother of two described “empathy, resilience, courage and love” as key qualities of both mothers and sound leaders.

Rebecca Minkoff, co-founder and creative director of her eponymous fashion brand; Jill Scalamandre, president of bareMinerals; and Gina Raimondo, Rhode Island’s first female governor, were the event’s other honorees.

michelle gass kohls rebecca minkoff
L-R: Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass and Rebecca Minkoff.
CREDIT: George Chinsee

“I always make sure to walk my kids to school every morning, or if I need to travel for work, I will limit my time away to five days; otherwise, I will bring my kids with me,” Minkoff said of her efforts to balance motherhood and a successful career in fashion. “This allows me to feel that ‘even’ sense between work and spending quality time with my kids. It’s the give-and-takes that are unique to each woman that she must explore for herself.”

Minkoff told FN that she’ll spend Mother’s Day this weekend with her three children at a picnic enjoying rosé and “lots of bread” with friends.

The event — which has previously honored Hilary Clinton, Jessica Alba, Susan Sarandon and other women in retail, entertainment and fashion — raised its highest amount to date, more than $750,000, with proceeds benefiting Save the Children’s U.S. Programs and Advocacy.

Actress Jennifer Garner, who was not able to attend to due to a conflict, received the 2019 Champion of Children award and accepted the honor via a video.

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