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Profile: Target's CEO Brian Cornell

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It would appear that US retailer Target are hoping that the sociable Brian Cornell is the man who can thrust them firmly back into the mainstream of American retail. Described by fellow Polaris director Scott Wine as “a real high-energy guy” Cornell is both animated and innovative without straying too far from the traditional CEO mould.

As he posed for selfies and shook hands with hundreds of corporate staff at Target’s Minneapolis headquarters, Cornell certainly seemed to epitomise the modern breath of fresh air that the company desperately needs. The 55 year old’s enthusiastic smile was outshone only by his euphoric speech. Commenting on the meet and greet he told Fortune. “It has been absolutely electric. There’s a really fun, positive energy here. It’s great to meet so many employees.”

Despite his zest however, Cornell is a veteran when it comes to the world of big retail. He will be leaving the position of CEO at PepsiCo and has previously held the job at Sam’s Club (Wal-Mart) and Michael’s Stores Inc.

His reputation is equally well established. Whilst running the Sam’s Club unit of Wal-Mart, Mr. Cornell transformed sales at the chain from a decreased 1.4 per cent in 2010 to an 8.4 per cent rise in 2012, making it into one of Wal-Mart’s top growing divisions.

Whether he is what Target needs however isn’t quite so clear cut. The retail giant, with stores in USA and Australia, suffered a $941m loss after attempting to move into Canada. They also lost a considerable amount of trust after a security breach left millions of customers personal details exposed.

But Target appear hopeful in a statement: “As we seek to aggressively move Target forward and establish the company as a top omnichannel retailer, we focused on identifying an extraordinary leader who could bring vision, focus and a wealth of experience to Target’s transformation.”

Wall street commentator Walter Loeb however was far more dubious: “ I hoped Brian Cornell would have been younger and more broadly schooled in fashion retailing. However, I wish him well, and I will watch his moves and his appointments of strong associates.”

Let’s hope Cornell’s willpower is as resilient as his smile.

Published on Friday 08 August by Editorial Assistant
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