Men's Wearhouse CIO suits up for Kohl's

After a successful decade as CIO at Men's Wearhouse, Jeff Marshall is leaving the men's specialty store to become CIO for Kohl's Corp.

Men's Wearhouse Inc. CIO Jeff Marshall is leaving his post at the specialty chain to become CIO at Kohl's Corp

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In an interview with SearchCIO.com, the 52-year-old Marshall said both companies have similar visions of how IT can help meet ambitious business goals.

I want to do something great again.


Jeff Marshall
CIOMen's Wearhouse

"I got a call and, quite honestly, it sounded like a great opportunity. Kohl's is utilizing a lot of the same tools we use at Men's Wearhouse," Marshall said. "They seem to have a similar culture,'' although Kohl's is about "eight or nine times our size."

Men's Wearhouse generated about $1.5 billion in sales in 2004. The company has 709 stores and close to 14,000 employees. Kohl's, by comparison, reported $11.7 billion in sales last year and has some 115,000 employees. The Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based Kohl's operates 669 department stores in 40 states, and is on track to open 95 stores in 2005. Kohl's IT department numbers 500, compared to the 150-person IT staff at Men's Wearhouse.

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Lessons on the job

"I've got another eight or 10 years to do something," said Marshall, who starts work at Kohl's next week. "I want to do something great again. Kohl's seems to be the right culture. I think they have great future as they go from $12 billion to $20 billion. And I think I can help."

Bill Melvin, senior vice president of information technology at Men's Wearhouse, is taking over Marshall's duties.

Marshall has overseen technology operations at Men's Wearhouse for nearly a decade, joining the Houston-based men's specialty apparel chain in 1996 as vice president of information and technology -- and becoming CIO two years later.

During his tenure at the Men's Wearhouse, Marshall overhauled the company's point-of-sales system, making news in the IT industry as the first retailer to leverage a Java architecture to support point-of-sale functions. The touch screen registers he deployed at the company's stores, with their big buttons and video-like features, not only shaved off time at the checkout counter but encouraged sales associates to access information that might help the customer.

"It made it more likely for them to go over the register and access your customer files and say, 'Geez, Mr. Marshall, you were in here six months go, and you bought a blue blazer -- how's that doing?' It just made utilization of information a lot more customer-centric and employee-friendly," he said.

The system reduced training time from eight to four hours. Asked to name his biggest achievement, Marshall pointed to his people skills.

"The thing that I am most proud of is the group of people we were able to hire and retain. They have an excellent perspective on what our role is -- in making Men's Warehouse successful. I'm very confident they will continue to do that," he said.

A native of Greenwich, Conn., Marshall began his college career at Julliard as a pianist and earned a degree in comparative literature from Columbia University. He began his technology career at Honeywell Information Systems as a programmer and by the early 1980s was working in telecommunications for United Telecommunications, the precursor to Sprint. Later, he struck out on his own to do consulting work, including network design implementations for large companies such as Apple -- and also Men's Wearhouse.

"Understanding the business is really where the technologist can be most effective," Marshall said. "One of the things that was attractive to me about the Kohl's opportunity is their willingness -- their penchant -- to move people around from one discipline to another," he said.

"I like the opportunity to learn new things."

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