Five Questions with Target’s Brian Cornell

Target brian Cornell

Target CEO Brian Cornell took the stage this week in front of approximately 13,000 red and khaki-clad team members at the company’s Fall National Meeting (FNM). The annual meeting gives Target’s team a time to celebrate the wins of the past year and rally in advance of the holiday season. This year’s meeting was also marked by frank conversations about the needs of the business and challenges that lie ahead as Target continues to focus on providing an on-demand shopping experience for guests. While Target has made significant progress over the last year, as Cornell shared following his speech, there is much more work to be done.

How did this Fall National Meeting compare to last year, when you’d only been CEO for a month?
Last year, my first FNM was pretty remarkable. Thousands of team members cheering, anxious to hear from me. The pressure to strike just the right tone, to motivate and inspire, was incredible. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to team members and getting to know them, whether walking through the Great Hall at HQ or traveling around the country to visit stores. This year I took the stage and could feel our recent momentum in the energy of the crowd. So I was able to relax and enjoy the experience, and have a little fun with it.

You talked a lot today about needing to fix the fundamentals at Target. Can you explain what that means?
Retail is changing more rapidly today than at any time in my career. Our guests can shop anytime, anywhere with a few quick swipes of their finger. Thanks to digital technology, consumers carry their favorite stores around in their pockets and purses. In order to support the kind of on-demand shopping we know our guests want, we need to ensure that our core fundamentals enable our teams, stores and digital channels to deliver an exceptional experience. When they don’t, we create a frustrating experience for our guests. These are incredibly important areas we must address to truly succeed.

So how are you going to address these issues?
Target is investing $1 billion in supply chain and technology infrastructure this year to enhance our digital capabilities, expand fulfillment options and improve the in-store experience. However, capital alone isn’t enough. We’re also putting the right leadership in place to spearhead these efforts. John Mulligan just moved into the newly created role of COO, to serve as a single point of operational accountability and centralize the functions of stores, supply chain and properties. We brought in Mike McNamara, one of the most respected CIOs in the industry globally, to develop our technology platform. And our CMO Jeff Jones now serves as Target’s Chief Guest Architect to help us think differently about our guest experience in a digitally enabled world. We’re also continuing the push to reduce complexity in the way we work – simplify processes, remove layers, move more quickly. Talent is an important component, ensuring we have the right people in the right roles and emphasizing the importance of leadership skills and subject matter expertise.

Does this mean you’re walking away from the strategic priorities we’ve been hearing about since March and focusing on something new?  
Not at all. Transformation requires us to do several things at once. We remain committed to our five strategic priorities and continuing to bring newness and differentiation to the guest experience. Securing the foundation will eventually allow us to bring innovation to market more quickly. We must address the fundamentals and innovate simultaneously with our guests in mind. Focusing on both will propel our strategic priorities, drive long term growth and position Target to better meet guest needs now and in the future.

How long will this take to fix?
I can’t speculate on a timeline, but this is Target’s most urgent task at hand. Getting the fundamentals right is critical to delivering on the long-term strategy we have laid out. And based on the response I got from the team today, I am very confident in our future. In fact, I have no doubt that everyone is leaving Target Center with a renewed focus on the challenge ahead and ready to go to work.

SOURCE: A Bullseye View

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.