Target (TGT) is taking another stab at re-inventing its large but uninspired grocery business.
The discount chain said on Wednesday it had hired two new senior executives, one from Walmart (WMT) and the other from General Mills (GIS), to help overhaul its $15 billion a year food business, one that has floundered but is essential to helping Target lick its shopper traffic challenges.
The new hires, 20-year General Mills veteran Liz Nordlie and Mark Kenny, most recently in charge of house brands in deli and bakery at Walmart, will be tasked with improving Target’s private label brands as well as prepared foods.
Food generates about 20% of company sales but is an area where Target has found itself pinched between Walmart’s aggressive prices and grocery overhaul, and efforts of food stores like Kroger (KR) and Whole Foods Market’s (WFM) domination of organic foods. What’s more, grocery is an essential tool in spurring regular visits from customers so any drop-off in its food business pinches other categories too. In its fiscal first quarter, Target said comparable sales had fallen in its food and beverage business, even as some bright spots started to emerge, namely its produce business. Target will report second quarter results on Wednesday.
The two hires comes a few months after Target hired Jeff Burt, an executive from Kroger’s Fred Meyer chain, to head its grocery business, looking for a reset after the previous head of the division, Anne Dament, left Target after just 18 months into the job. Dament had been a colleague of Target CEO Brian Cornell’s earlier in her career when both worked at Safeway and her exit was seen as a major setback for Target.