Can Target return to its merchandising roots?

Some recent articles about the new CEO at Target (Brian Cornell) have noted his plan to focus on apparel, home decor and kids’ businesses. For somebody with a CPG background like Mr. Cornell, this is a refreshing approach to a business that lost sight of its key strengths. Here’s a recent RetailWire comment on the topic:

I have always viewed Target’s focus on food and consumables to be a distraction from its core business. Having made the investment in groceries, it’s hard to step back now but the strategy served largely to “commoditize” a company with a distinct brand identity. I’m pleasantly surprised to see Mr. Cornell (the subject of initial skepticism because of his CPG background) focusing on “cheap chic” areas like apparel and home decor.

It was also interesting to note in the WSJ article that Mr. Cornell paid a visit to Bob Ulrich, who was perhaps the most important figure in Target’s history. (The Journal said that Mr. Ulrich stepped back while his protege Gregg Steinhafel took the company in a very different direction.) Bob Ulrich’s re-engagement with the new CEO has some symbolic value at a company trying to move faster while honoring its heritage.

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