President of Target Canada Expresses Regret, Forges Ahead
After a disastrous launch and dismal first year, Target Canada executives are owning up to the company’s mistakes and vowing to turn things around.
Newly appointed president Mark Schindele said yesterday that Target Corporation was overly ambitious when it opened 124 stores and three distribution centers in Canada over a 12-month period.
“If I could build a time machine and go back, we would’ve liked to have a slower approach,” Schindele said in an interview.
“It was too much in too short a window. Our biggest issue (was) that we needed more time.”
Schindele formerly worked for Target in the United States as senior vice president of merchandising operations. He was brought to Canada to replace Tony Fisher, who was fired from the position in May.
Now that Target executives have identified where the company fell short, Schindele said he believes the company will be able to impress Canadians with prices that beat its competitors and exclusive products that will bring people back into its stores.
Schindele explained Target Canada’s problem with empty shelves by saying that the company moved too quickly to push inventory into its stores which left them unable to forecast when they needed to restock best-selling items.
Customers also complained about the prices, as 1,000 items were off the radar when compared with competitors like Walmart.
Additionally, Target didn’t know the Canadian market well enough to determine which locations would sell out of popular seasonal items, though Schindele said that the retailer has come to understand the needs of each individual store much better over the past year.
Target’s plans to turn the chain around will take shape over the next few months and will include a price-match policy that will make it easier for shoppers to get the lowest prices available. In addition to weekly flyers, Target will honor price matches with several major online retailers including Amazon. They will also make it easier for customers to present price comparisons at the cash register rather than having to do so at the customer service counter.
The retailer will also offer a broader line of exclusive products from the apparel section, with promises to carry more lines of Roots’ Beaver Canoe clothing and a larger selection of maternity items. Target will also begin to stock plus-sized clothes for the first time in the country.
In addition to these changes, Target faces the difficult task of winning back scores of shoppers who have written them off due to negative experiences over the past year. Schindele said he's confident that more exclusives and better pricing will help shift the tide in Target's favor.
“It all starts with having the right content in the store, being priced right and the right inventory levels,” he said.
“That’s what will change our story.”
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.