March 19, 2015

Target ousts top logistics executive in shift to strengthen online sales

Michael Robbins was 14-year veteran of supply chain.

By Ben Ames

One of the top logistics executives at Target Corp. has apparently left the retail giant as part of what is expected to be a massive downsizing focused on the company's Minneapolis headquarters.

Michael Robbins has left his post as Target's senior vice president of global supply chain and logistics after 14 years there. Molly Snyder, a company spokeswoman, declined to confirm the move, but referred queries to a list of current Target executives that does not include Robbins' name.

"We provide a list of our senior vice presidents on our website. Beyond that, we typically don't comment on personnel moves or changes," she said. It is unclear when Robbins left, and there has been no announcement of a successor.

On March 3 the company outlined to analysts plans to revamp what has become a flagging brand by, among other things, eliminating several thousand positions over the next two years, mostly at its corporate offices. Target said it plans a major expansion into omnichannel commerce and fulfillment, and will build a cluster of smaller stores in densely populated urban areas. Target expects to invest between $2 and $2.2 billion in capital expenditures, including a $1 billion investment in technology and supply chain operations.

New CEO Brian Cornell said at the March 3 meeting that he will cut $2 billion in costs over the next two years and strengthen Target's digital sales and supporting distribution networks to capitalize on consumers' increasing shift from brick-and-mortar purchases to online sales. Cornell, hired last year, said he plans to follow a "channel-agnostic approach" for a single shopping experience across stores, the web and mobile platforms.

During Robbins' tenure, Target grew from 1,000 U.S. stores in 2001 to 1,795 stores today, trailing only Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in store footprint. However, it is considered a relatively small digital player, and Robbins' successor will be hard-pressed to challenge the more advanced e-commerce supply chains of either Amazon.com, the world's largest e-tailer, or Wal-Mart. It took a step in that direction last holiday season when it offered free shipping for all items ordered on its website, Target.com, through Dec. 20. The move was a first for Target.

In another signal that Target is getting serious about overhauling its online sales channels, Cornell replaced veteran chief information officer Bob DeRodes last month with Mike McNamara. The new executive had previously led the effort to modernize e-commerce and the global IT and supply chain for one of the world's largest online grocers, U.K.-based Tesco PLC, Target said.

Target has faced rocky times in the past 18 months, writing off a $5.1 billion loss in January when it shuttered its Canadian stores, and spending hundreds of millions in 2013 to repair damage to its computer network when hackers stole millions of shoppers' credit card data.

About the Author

Ben Ames
Senior Editor
Ben Ames has spent 20 years as a journalist since starting out as a daily newspaper reporter in Pennsylvania in 1995. From 1999 forward, he has focused on business and technology reporting for a number of trade journals, beginning when he joined Design News and Modern Materials Handling magazines. Ames is author of the trail guide "Hiking Massachusetts" and is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.

More articles by Ben Ames

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