A Chat with Jill Sando, Target’s New CMO for Style and Owned Brands

Photo: Stephen Allen

Over the course of her 22-year career with Target, Jill Sando, just announced as Executive Vice President and Chief Merchandising Officer, Style and Owned Brands, has been instrumental in leading teams that bring that cache to life. Jill has held positions in Product Design and Development, Apparel and Accessories, Home and more across Merchandising. As she kicks off a new decade with Target in a new role, the retailer’s official blog “A Bullseye View” talked with her about Target’s design DNA and what’s ahead.

Jill, congratulations on your stylish new appointment! Our guests tell us how much they love our owned brands—especially in Home and Apparel. What do you think makes those categories so special?
Target has design in its DNA. The secret sauce is in both the brands and the products our talented teams design and develop. That includes everyone from product design to sourcing to marketing and more. And it’s all built with our guests at the center. Our teams think deeply about the emotional response to our products and brands, and we bring an intentional emphasis on joy and celebration. We aim to not only inspire our guests but have them feeling a sense of pride in their purchases. We design with no compromise—it’s truly amazing design at an incredible value.

Target reinvented its owned-brand portfolio, launching dozens of new and exclusive brands. What’s next?
We’ve had great success launching several—more than 20!—incredible brands the past few years. And our impressive portfolio is truly a differentiator for Target. It drives our guests to stores and online for those only-at-Target finds. As we transition from launch to run state, we have much more opportunity with our powerful portfolio. It’s robust, relevant and critical to how we’ll continue to deliver and engage our guests across our categories. With a strong, diverse portfolio, there is much more to come for our owned brands and I can’t wait to be part of this next chapter.

As the person who helmed Target’s home reinvention, tell us about your home. As you browse the aisles, what are you always reaching for?
I am a total homebody. It’s my happy place. It’s cozy and warm, and I love to entertain. I have such a love of home and all that it stands for—especially family. And everything in my home has meaning behind it. I’d say that there are stories behind 90% of the items in my home. I pick up things that spark memories, serve as mementos and make me happy. It could be something that reminds me of an inspiration trip with our designers, a breakthrough moment we had as a team or a meaningful event with my family.

At the end of the day, other than cooking up a favorite family meal, what gives you energy?
I love to workout and I definitely enjoy that as a release at the end of the day. But honestly, my work is energizing. I feel incredibly lucky to have found a career that marries art and science. I use both sides of my brain. I get to work with our team to bring data and creativity to build the unexpected. It’s this combination that is so fulfilling and rewarding. Having been the math club member that couldn’t put down Vogue, I found the perfect role. I’m both challenged and stimulated to play a role in creating products and brands that are anchored in both art and science.

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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.