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Meet the Executive Who Will Choose Everything Target Sells

Exterior pictures of Target store in Cloverdale MallExterior pictures of Target store in Cloverdale Mall

Target (TGT) has completed a one-year search to fill one of its most crucial executive roles.

The discount retailer said Tuesday it has hired former senior Nordstrom (JWN) and Nike (NKE) executive Mark Tritton to be its new chief merchant.

Tritton, who oversaw Nordstrom’s private label business, will start as executive vice president and chief merchandising officer on June 5, overseeing among other aspects of Target’s business companywide buying, product design and development, sourcing, and in-store product presentation.

The chief merchant is the executive in charge of selecting all of the merchandise that a retailer sells, and is often viewed as the second-highest ranking executive after the CEO. (The chief executives of Kohl’s (KSS) and Macy’s (M) are former chief merchants.)

Tritton will be essential in helping Target stand out from its rivals, notably Walmart (WMT), as well as molding what the retailer stands for in customers’ minds. As a chief merchant, he also has to understand the supply chain to make sure products are in stores at the right time.

Last summer, Target parted ways with former long-time chief merchant Kathee Tesija, one of the key architects of the chain’s cheap-chic “Tar-zhay image” as part of a major shakeup in upper ranks since Brian Cornell became CEO in 2014.

 

Target has been working to address its lingering problems. The retailer has improved its supply chain to prevent out-of-stock items, created a chief operating officer job last year, and built up its still relatively small e-commerce business. But Target’s merchandise still has to avoid falling into the trap of “sameness” that plagues retail, and forces many stores to compete solely on price.

Target also announced Tuesday it has promoted Jason Goldberger, current president of its website and mobile business, to the newly created role of chief digital officer. Over the holiday quarter, Target’s digital sales rose 34%, but the retailer, which is No. 3 in the U.S. overall but only 10th largest online store according to eMarketer, is competing with an aggressive Walmart and Amazon (AMZN).

Target will report its first-quarter earnings on Wednesday morning.