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Can Target Reclaim Its Design Moxie?

CEO Brian Cornell wants to compete on product, and not just price

As Target gears up for its first holiday season since an epic breach of its data systems last year, new CEO Brian Cornell is shifting away from discounts and toward design, with a renewed focus on dressing both its customers and their homes. Whether that strategy will pay off remains to be seen.

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“Our whole focus is on design and style,” Cornell tells Women’s Wear Daily, pointing to partnerships with fashion designers like rising star Joseph Altuzarra and social enterprises like Toms. Starting on Nov. 5, for the lead-up to Christmas, Target will launch a pop-up shop with Story, a Manhattan concept store that presents themed installations on behalf of retailers eager for a testing ground in a fashionable location.

While his chief executive predecessors were eager to sell more groceries, which in theory bring shoppers to stores more regularly, and experiment with smaller-format stores suited to urban shoppers, Cornell says he is more interested in Target’s role as department store to the masses. “As we think about the role of food, we need to step back,” he says. “We’ve made it really clear we’re going to double down on style and design and invest in apparel and home. Baby and kids are critically important and wellness is a big growth area.”


In particular, Cornell hopes to deploy the retailer’s 600-strong product team to develop new items, and possibly a new internal brand, designed to appeal to shoppers outside of the soccer moms who first lent Target its caché. “We still have a ‘cool factor’ shopper, but we’re recognizing that more and more there is a growing Hispanic audience,” he says. “We recognize that the guest has changed. They’re very connected and love to shop, but the demographics have changed. Localization and personalization are important.”

Much is at stake for both Target, which continues to post lackluster financial results, and Cornell, who joined the company in August after stints at the helm of first Sam’s Club, and then Pepsico America. Net earnings were down 62% last quarter, and the company has lowered third quarter guidance on earnings per share.

[H/T Women’s Wear Daily]

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About the author

Staff writer Ainsley (O'Connell) Harris covers the business of technology with a focus on financial services and education. Follow her on Twitter at @ainsleyoc.

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