July 31, 2014, 1:39 PM

Target gets a new CEO

Brian Cornell, most recently of PepsiCo, takes over at Target next month. The mass merchant retailer has been on the hunt for a new chief executive since early May.

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Target Corp. has hired Brian Cornell as its next CEO and chairman of the board of directors. Cornell starts Aug. 12 and is the first Target CEO to be hired from outside the company. Target is No. 18 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide.

Cornell has held executive positions at Sam’s Club, where he was president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s warehouse club from 2009 to 2012; at craft store retail chain Michaels Stores Inc., where he was CEO from 2007 to 2009; and at grocery store chain Safeway Inc., where he was chief marketing officer from 2004 to 2007. Most recently, Cornell was CEO of PepsiCo Americas Foods where he ran the manufacturer’s food business. Walmart.com is No. 4 in the Top 500; Safeway is No. 132.

Target’s shuffled the ranks and infused itself with new talent following the resignation of CEO Gregg Steinhafel in May. Steinhafel, who’d been Target’s CEO since 2008, resigned in the wake of a massive data breach that exposed payment card details of 40 million store shoppers, slowing store sales and an expansion of Target stores into Canada that underwhelmed. Target soon thereafter hired former Gilt Group Inc. executive Peter Glusker to lead its business integration and operations division, put Target veteran Mark Schindele in charge of Target’s 127 Canadian stores and, earlier this month, hired Alan Wizemann, founder of e-commerce software provider ShopIgniter, to lead digital teams as vice president of Target.com and mobile product. It also hired former GSI Commerce executive David Weissman to head the online Dermstore unit. GSI Commerce, which hosts e-commerce sites for major retail chains and provides online marketing services, is now part of eBay Inc.

“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,” says Roxanne S. Austin, interim non-executive chair of the board, on Cornell’s hire.

Cornell put forth his initial priorities in a statement: “As we create the Target of tomorrow, I will focus on our current business performance in both the U.S. and Canada and on how we accelerate our omnichannel transformation.”

While Target does not publicly disclose its quarterly or full year e-commerce sales figures, it has pointed to the channel’s strength in recent earnings calls, saying the web sales grew 20% year over year during the fourth quarter and that the buy online, pick-up in store program it launched in November accounted for 10% of web orders placed in Q4. 

Target began running its own e-commerce operation only in 2011. For the decade prior, Target ran on Amazon.com Inc.’s e-commerce platform and used Amazon services for fulfillment and web hosting. The outsourcing cost Target a hefty commission on online sales, an amount estimated at $100 million annually by investment firm Robert W. Baird & Co. In 2009, Target announced it would migrate from Amazon’s e-commerce platform when its contract expired in 2011. Amazon.com is No. 1 in the Top 500 Guide.

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