- Target appointed Jeff Burt, former president of the Fred Meyer division of Kroger Co., as senior vice president of grocery, fresh food and beverage, according to a press release. Burt will join the company on April 10, relocating to Minneapolis.
- Burt will help lead the retail giant's food and beverage strategy, which will focus on creating a differentiated shopper experience through a curated assortment of products and prices.
- “After an extensive search to find a new leader to join our team, I’m confident that Jeff is the right person for the charge. His vast industry expertise will accelerate our plans to bring a unique food and beverage experience to Target guests,” Mark Tritton, executive vice president and chief of merchandising officer, said in a statement. “He’s an enthusiastic and passionate leader with the deep knowledge in food and beverage that Target needs to build on recent progress and drive future growth.”
Burt's grocery expertise will certainly be a welcome addition to Target's grocery business, which has struggled to survive, due to problems like few customers shopping from its perishable food sections. Industry experts estimate that the retailer's perishable losses are higher than the industry average, which led to the creation of dedicated grocery teams trained specifically to handle packaged and fresh food and better interact with customers who enter the grocery section of the store.
"[Food] is always going to complement our core businesses. We’re going to stick to our signature categories, like apparel, home and beauty. But while our guests are there, we want to offer them a great food experience," Target CEO Brian Cornell said of Target's grocery future at the Shoptalk 2017 conference in Las Vegas on Monday. "[Burt] understands the food business from A to Z, and he’s going to help us elevate our assortment, presentation and quality. So when you shop those core categories, you’re also going to have access to great food and an expanded beverage assortment."
Cornell has said in the past that despite Target's plans for its fresh food business, the retailer does not aim to compete with Wal-Mart and other major grocery rivals. Instead, it will continue to leverage style, baby, wellness and other key categories. “Groceries has never been on that list," Cornell told reporters ahead of the company's fall national meeting last year. "We’ve been able to drive traffic without having a sushi chef."
However, Target has been adding more grocery players to its team in recent years, including Cornell himself, who spent three years as an executive at Safeway. Burt's predecessor, Anne Dament, was also a grocery veteran of about two decades. She abruptly resigned last year, after about a year and a half on the job.
It will be interesting to see how Burt's addition will shape the retailer's grocery strategy. Grocery sections can help lure both new and already loyal customers to the store, if done right, but Target will need to continue to invest in the space if it wants to divert market share from traditional supermarket formats.