Target CEO Offers Pre-Holiday Pep Talk

It’s been a good year for addressing large, excitable crowds.

A fact Target CEO Brian Cornell got to experience firsthand last week as he addressed a sea of khaki and red-clad employees 14,000 people-deep about the “bumps in the road” the company has faced of late.

The pre-holiday pep rally is a tradition at Target, and this year’s had a particular sense of urgency as the retailer attempted to get the seasonal staff fired up and ready to sell.

“We have 137 days in front of us to turn this into a winning year, to start that second-half rally,” Cornell said.

Target has faced tough sledding in 2014, as its same-store sales took their first drop in two years last quarter and the retailer was forced to drop its annual sales forecast.

Cornell told the assembled that the headlines are telling an incomplete story and that, as he sees it, the big retail game is at halftime with a score of 0-0.

“I’ve got so much confidence in our strategy, our plans and in all of you,” he said. “I know we get to write the final chapter of 2016.”

And if Cornell failed to pump up the crowd, well, there was always Bon Jovi to rock out between executive speeches.

“Jon Bon Jovi just opened up for me,” John Mulligan, Target’s chief operations officer, quipped as he followed the rocker on stage.

The wisdom of hiring a musician most famous for singing “Livin’ On A Prayer” for a company in the midst of a turnaround was not commented on.

Instead, progress was called out, like expanding ship-from-store to 600 new Target locations. By the end of November, 1,060 of Target’s 1,800 or so U.S. locations will have the capacity. Target is also adding enhanced customer service counters in 70 stores to streamline the process of picking up online orders.

Other highlights from the pep rally were Janna Potts, who was promoted earlier this year to be Target’s chief stores officer, donning a red leather jacket to offer some colorful advice.

“I ask all of you to channel your inner badass, so when we look back on 2016, we can say, ‘Yeah, we crushed it,'” she said.


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