Target and the Retail Industry Leaders Association announced Monday that CEO Brian Cornell has signed on as chairman of the retail trade organization for 2018 and 2019.
Cornell has served on the organization’s board for three years, and in a Target company blog post he said he learned during that time that the group’s members demonstrated their "powerful voice" through such efforts as preventing the border adjustment tax (BAT).
His tenure will include helping the organization "create a more diverse and inclusive next generation of retail leaders" and support innovation, he also said. RILA on Tuesday also recognized tech startups IamBot, Multifold, and Persado with its (R)Tech Retail CEO Innovation Awards.
Target has been a longtime member of RILA, but last year Cornell deepened the relationship through public policy efforts as he came to the forefront of the controversy over the BAT — a proposed 20% tax on imports that was eventually stripped from the final tax bill after heavy lobbying by RILA, NRF, other trade associations and individual companies.
In May, Cornell testified against the bill before the House of Representatives' Ways and Means committee. "It’s pretty simple math," he said at the time. "If the government takes four out of every five dollars we make, there’s no capital to invest and no prospects for growth — and that matters a lot both to us and the U.S. economy. Instead of investing and creating jobs we would be pushed in another direction."
In a statement regarding his appointment, Cornell said the battle over the BAT showed him that there's a big opportunity for more retailers to engage in public policy efforts. As he moves into his new role, Cornell also said he will help push the envelope on digital experiences and innovation.
"I can assure you, retail is anything but dead," Cornell said. "The numbers are in, and this holiday season was one of the strongest in years. People all over the world still love to shop, and that’s not likely to change. Consumer preferences and shopping behaviors continue to evolve and we’re moving fast to respond and anticipate what’s next. Our job is to create more new and exciting ways to elevate the experience in this digital era. RILA’s (R)Tech Center for Innovation is a great example of how this is happening."
Target under Cornell has shifted its innovation focus from futuristic pilot projects and long-term visions to programs, ventures and growth opportunities that can have a nearer-term impact on the retailer’s core business. Chief innovation and strategy officer Casey Carl left the retailer last May and Minsok Pak later took up the role of executive vice president, chief strategy and innovation officer.