More bad news, bad timing for Target

There has been plenty written about the recent security breach at Target and their handling (or mishandling) of both the news and the problem itself. I’ve posted a couple of recent RetailWire comments on the subject:

It’s hard to measure the impact of the security breach on Target’s sales until the company announces its 4th quarter results. Under the circumstances, the company would be smart to be transparent about the impact sooner (at the end of fiscal December) rather than later, since the story broke about a week before Christmas.

Somebody with good access to research data ought to be able to track the impact of these breaches on past consumer behavior. For example, did the TJX security breach several years ago have an impact on their sales? (Obviously not recently.) Or did the identity theft happen over such a long time period that it flew under customers’ radar screens? The Target situation is different in terms of its speed and the “lead story” news coverage it has received in the last several days, especially with the added issue of PIN numbers being compromised.

Now on the subject of crisis management: I would add that the duration of the security breach (from November 27th through December 15th) is a big part of the story. I’m no IT expert, but why and how did Target’s systems allow this to go undetected for so long?

This should be a cautionary tale about how a “best in class” retailer deals effectively — or not so much — with a true crisis management situation. Retailers who have not developed their own contingency plans for this kind of event had better get to work.


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