It turns out that Target has been plotting a lot more than just experimenting with same-day delivery in the Twin Cities. Along with his colleagues, CEO Brian Cornell—who has been pushing one major change after another to get the chain back on track—laid out new strategic directions at the chain’s Fall National Meeting in Minneapolis this week.
Target is now pivoting toward wellness as an important pillar of its brand, product and service strategy. The retailer is also rolling out an LA 25 initiative at 25 of its Los Angeles-area stores to test about 50 innovations and enhancements.
“Many companies have gone through challenging times, lost their stride,” Cornell said, addressing the gathering of 11,000 corporate employees and 2,500 store leaders from across the country, according to USA Today. “For us, it is a very difficult time. We’re still facing challenges but we are turning the corner and we’re seeing a significant reversal in trend.”
Indeed, the new initiatives unveiled at the meeting seem likely to add momentum to Target’s recent progress in putting the disastrous cyber-security breach of 2013 behind it and in reacquiring some of the brand’s core appeal with trend-conscious Americans it lost over the past several years.
Take LA25, the new test of about 50 innovations in Los Angeles. “Some of the tests will be programs and services already piloting in other markets; others are brand-new ideas we’ve never tried before,” Target said, in a press release. “But the chance to test them all in a single market environment will help us see which elements work best together. We’ll use what we learn to build the best-performing enhancement combos in our future store prototypes and design plans.”
The focus will be on presentation and service, including a more modern sales floor with updated fixtures and helpful signs, the chain said. And the front of the store will showcase “the latest products and trends.” Customers “will be able to interact with some of the tests as they shop.”
Among the experiments that will be tested in LA25 are:
- Highly trained experts in beauty and baby departments to offer personalized service and unbiased information
- Digital service ambassadors to help shoppers use digital channels in the store
- In-store displays featuring online-only products
- Products “in their natural habitat” such as in vignettes featuring set dinner tables, fully decorated bedroom spaces and more
- RFID technology to help employees locate misplaced products
As far as wellness is concerned, Cornell is evolving Target’s corporate social responsibility strategy “to focus on wellness,” the chain said.
“We want to improve the health of the nation by making wellness the way of life,” said Laysha Ward, Target’s chief CSR officer, in a press release. “We’ll get there by making healthy eating, active living and clean-label products solutions … more affordable, accessible and inspiring,” including more better-for-you foods and beverages and an effort to help employees live healthier lives.
To that latter end, Target will give each of its more than 300,000 US employees a free or discounted Fitbit tracking device, and launch an internal team contest with a $1-million prize that will be distributed among charities. Employees will also get a new wellness discount for an additional 20 percent off fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, Target’s Simply Balanced private-label foods and C9 activewear, on top of existing employee discounts.
— Target News (@TargetNews) September 16, 2015
The biggest hiccup in the feel-good meeting was the fact that Target plans to phase out its existing philanthropic program that emphasizes contributions to schools, in part because the average school’s payout over the past 18 years was only $370. Also, a group of pharmacy workers at a Target store in Brooklyn won a vote to form a “microunion,” which would make it Target’s first unionized store.
And in a big milestone for banks hoping to make Target pay for its massive data breach, a judge this week certified a class-action lawsuit against the chain over the hack that affected 70 million Target customers in 2013. Reuters said the step makes a settlement more likely.
But overall, Cornell and his team rode a wave of good feeling and celebration of new initiatives. “We will be famous for our signature categories: style, baby, kids and wellness,” Cornell promised at the meeting. If he turns out to be wrong, it won’t be for lack of trying.