Target CEO says he still sees many opportunities in retail

Anne d'Innocenzio, AP Retail Writer

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 2, 2016, file photo, Target Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell speaks to a group of investors at the company's annual meeting in New York. Cornell says he’s optimistic about the 2017 holiday season and consumer confidence, and still sees lots of opportunities in retail. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

NEW YORK (AP) -- Target CEO Brian Cornell says he's optimistic about the holiday season and consumer confidence, and still sees lots of opportunities in retail.

As all stores head into the crucial season, the Minneapolis-based discounter he has led since 2014 has been revamping its stores, opening smaller locations in urban markets and trying to offer more expert customer help in areas like food, clothing, and electronics.

Retailers overall are under pressure to make the stores more inviting and offer experiences shoppers couldn't get online, as customers increasingly opt for the convenience of shopping online.

Target is offering new store brands, eight of which will be available for the first time for the holiday season. That includes the much-anticipated Hearth & Hand with Magnolia, a lifestyle brand from Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV's "Fixer Upper."

Target's also been expanding online services including now shipping online orders from 1,400 of its 1,800 stores for faster delivery. It's hiring 100,000 temporary workers, a 40 percent increase from last year, to working in its stores, stocking shelves or fulfilling online orders.

Cornell spoke recently with The Associated Press about the holiday season and how consumers are feeling. The interview was edited for length and clarity.

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Q: Why do you feel optimistic about the season?

A: I feel really good. We've been working all year to bring our new brand offerings to life, to bring more value to the guest. We have done a lot of work to reimagine stores and move into new neighborhoods, so the holiday season is where it all comes together.

Q: What's been the reaction to Target's move to add dedicated experts?

A: If you shop beauty today, we have someone there that can help you, who understands the category, that's there to assist you and make a decision. In apparel, there's someone who can put together an outfit for Friday night. So the guest reaction has been really positive. I'm absolutely confident that is leading to market-share improvements. We're seeing stability and improvements in food and beverage and a big uptick in produce. We now have produce experts.

Q: What's the state of the consumer?

A: The consumer has been incredibly resilient. I look at the latest consumer confidence numbers. They look really positive, and we're seeing traffic up at the stores. We're seeing visits (to our) store site grow.

I think we are going into the holiday season with a stable consumer environment.

Q: Given a rash of layoffs at stores, do you think the retail industry is still the entry point into the workforce?

A: We're a big part of the American economy. Things are changing. There may be different types of retail opportunities, whether it is in a store or as a visual merchant or working in fulfilment so the jobs may change over time, but there's lots of opportunities.

I still believe that for well-run retailers that have great financial fundamentals who are investing in the business, there's great opportunity to take market share. I am absolutely determined to make sure Target is one of those winners.

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