By Mark Maurer
Kohl's Corp. promoted a finance veteran to the role of finance chief as the company looks to cut costs and boost customer traffic after a stretch of sluggish sales, analysts say.
Jill Timm, the Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based retailer's executive vice president of finance, will become chief financial officer, succeeding Bruce Besanko, who will step down Nov. 1, the company said late Thursday. Mr. Besanko, who had joined Kohl's in 2017 from retail and wholesale food seller Supervalu Inc., will remain with the company in an advisory role until his departure at the end of the fiscal year.
The move comes after the department-store operator reported its third consecutive decline in quarterly sales and announced that the company's president, Sona Chawla, would step down in mid-October. The company is searching for a new chief operating officer to succeed her.
Michelle Gass, the chief executive of Kohl's, "has to deal with two major exits while she is under pressure to show that her strategy is working," said David Swartz, an analyst at Morningstar Inc. "The results from the year's first half didn't give a lot of confidence."
Kohl's didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kohl's total sales fell 3.1% to $4.4 billion for the latest quarter ended Aug. 3. Other department stores such as Macy's Inc. also reported lower-than-expected results for the summer quarter.
The sales slump in the first half of the year puts more pressure on sales performance during the coming holiday season. To propel customer traffic, Kohl's has been launching initiatives such as an Amazon returns partnership, which allows shoppers to return items they bought on Amazon.com to any of its more than 1,100 stores, with no box required.
Those initiatives, though, could increase expenses, analysts said.
"As the online business gets bigger, that could lead to more fulfillment and technology costs, which they didn't have to deal with as much in the past," Mr. Swartz said.
Ms. Timm joined the company in 1999 and held progressive leadership positions across several areas of finance. In recent years, she led a major cost reduction program and has been focused on streamlining operations, which will likely continue to be integral to her role, according to Chuck Grom, a senior retail analyst at Gordon Haskett Research Advisors.
"The new CFO could manage expenses by building upon many of things Kohl's has done already, like using big data to drive inventory management and working to take the supply chain to the next level," said Christina Boni, senior credit officer at Moody's Investors Service Inc.
--Stephen Nakrosis contributed to this article.
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