Target CEO Brian Cornell Sees a $60 Billion Market Opportunity in Retail’s Carnage

May 17, 2017

At least one retail CEO sees a silver lining in the carnage buffeting his industry.

Target's (tgt) Brian Cornell, whose company reported a decline in first-quarter sales that was less severe than expected, told reporters Wednesday that the turmoil ripping through the retail industry could provide a big opportunity. As competitors close more stores, Cornell told reporters he believes between $45 billion and $60 billion in consumer spending will be up for grabs over the next three years.

To capture this market opportunity, the retail giant is in the process of a $7 billion effort to spruce up its stores. This includes remodeling 600 stores, speeding up the pace of opening smaller city stores, and improving the efficiency and accuracy of its supply chain.

Cornell recounted visiting remodeled Target stores in markets where competitors, including Macy's, J.C. Penney, and Sears, had recently closed. "We're picking up new guests, new shoppers to Target," he said.

Target could certainly use the market share: The retailer has been outmaneuvered by Amazon.com (amzn) on the e-commerce front and by Walmart (wmt), which has squeezed it on prices and ramped up its online business on the stores front.

But Cornell shouldn't assume that the disappearance of rivals necessarily leads to a sales boon. Dick's Sporting Goods (dks) this week reported lackluster sales in its first quarter, despite no longer having to face competition from The Sports Authority.

Target's top problem remains pulling shoppers in; traffic to its stores declined yet again in the first quarter. Despite some improvements in fresh food, its food and beverage business continues to tumble, which illustrates an ongoing problem in a category that accounts for 20% of its sales.

While Target's first-quarter results weren't as bad as analysts expected, and the company could gain some market share as rival stores continue to shutter, the retailer still faces a tough environment, and it's certainly not in celebration mode.

"We're not doing any high-fives in the room here today," Cornell told analysts.

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