NEW YORK – Target is heading towards the final leg of the holiday season with a lot of momentum.
CEO Brian Cornell says holiday sales continue to be strong even amid concerns over a new omicron variant. Like its larger rivals, Target has been able to withstand industry challenges such as labor shortages, inflation and supply chain disruptions as the discounter keeps shelves full and arm itself with a seasonal staff of 100,000.
Under Cornell’s leadership, Target accelerated its online services, such as roadside pickup and same-day services, while tidying up its stores well before the pandemic. The company raised its minimum wage to $ 15 an hour in 2020 – a commitment it made in 2017 and outstripped many of its grocery rivals.
However, Cornell predicts supply chain problems will persist for several years, and he is watching how inflation will affect Target’s shopping habits.
The Associated Press recently interviewed the 62-year-old Cornell on a wide range of topics, from the omicron to inflation and wages, and Target’s decision to no longer open its stores on Thanksgiving. His answers have been edited for clarity and length.
Q. How worried are you about the omicron?
A. We will continue to work with experts. We have a dedicated team, the Coronavirus Task Force that we created back in January 2020. And they will continue to guide us through the steps we need to take to make sure we are focused on the safety of our team and the safety of our guests.
Q. Have you seen any changes in shopping behavior due to the omicron?
A. I see guests shopping in our stores, shopping in all of our categories. So I didn’t notice any of the changes in the shopping patterns that we expected. But as you’ve seen throughout the pandemic, we know we need to be flexible about the needs of guests so that if they suddenly decide to stop using stores or return to services on the same day, we’re ready for them.
Q. What habits will continue when the pandemic is over?
A. I expect that stores will continue to be really important in the future. And obviously, Americans have learned to use their smartphones and tablets to shop online. And I think we can see that all cohorts encompass both in-store purchases and our same day services, and I think same day services will remain the same for years to come.
Q. What do you think is causing grievances among retail workers?
A. I really can’t talk about what’s going on in other industries and other companies. But I know that our teams want to be able to have successful careers in the place where they want to work, and this is reflected in our engagement and retention rates each week.
Q. How do you feel about wages?
A. We gave our teams an extra $ 2 for a (holiday) weekend. And while $ 15 is the benchmark we set city after city, city after city, we assess what our wages need to be to be competitive, we attract and retain talent.
Q. Do you think Target will lose workers due to the federal mandate to vaccinate?
A. At the moment it is really difficult to say. Again, we want to make sure that we provide the opportunity for our team members to have written options. So whether it’s vaccinations or testing, we want to make sure we offer them these options and hopefully they will continue to find Target a great place to work.
Q. What percentage of target workers are vaccinated?
A. We collect this information. I don’t have it yet, but we’ll definitely be in a position when we get into the first half of the year to understand exactly what percentage are vaccinated and which team members will need to get tested weekly.
Q. Has inflation changed shopping habits at Target?
A. I think it’s too early. We’re going to find out a lot more about how the consumer will react to inflationary pricing over the next six months. And do they choose an alternative brand? Do they decide to buy one of our brands? So we’re going to be watching this very closely.
Q. When do you think the supply chain problems will decrease?
A. I think this will be something that will happen over the course of several years as we invest and truly take the capabilities of our supply chain in the United States to the next level. We have inventory in the system to meet their needs. But the pressure in the supply chain won’t go away on January 1st. This is indeed driven by the incredibly high demand and very healthy consumer in the US.
B. Target announced that it will permanently close its stores on Thanksgiving. Why haven’t other major retailers follow your lead?
A. I’m not sure what they are going to do, but we backed off and said, “What will suit our team? What will suit our guests? And it was really clear to me how important it is to let our team members enjoy Thanksgiving with their friends and family.