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Influential Women: Christina Hennington, Target

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MINNEAPOLIS — Christina Hennington is one of a group of women executives at Target who have forged highly impressive careers while providing the retailer with outstanding executive leadership that has been manifested in Target’s superlative performance of recent years. Like her colleague Cara Sylvester, Hennington holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, having earned a bachelor’s degree at Cornell ­University.

influential womenBefore joining Target in 2003, Hennington worked as a consultant for several years with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Boston and also served as a product manager for two Boston-based technology startups. At Target she started out as a buyer, first in toys then beauty and electronics before being promoted to MP director of household/personal care/baby and beauty.

In 2011 she moved into the executive ranks as vice president and merchandise manager for beauty and personal care, followed by promotion to senior VP of health and beauty in 2014. A year later she was named senior VP of merchandise transformation and operations, a position that broadened her responsibilities considerably. In addition to presentation, negotiations, business process, analytics and category management, Hennington oversaw Target’s small-store formats and new capability development in support of the retailer’s merchandising strategy. 

It was in this position that Hennington played an instrumental role in modernizing Target’s merchandising organization, blending physical and digital buying functions. In 2019 she was appointed senior VP and group merchandise manager of essentials, beauty, hard lines and services, a huge portfolio that generates about 40% of Target’s sales and included toys, sporting goods, electronics, mobile, entertainment, baby, health care, optical, beauty, personal care, household essentials and pets. 

Shortly before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hennington was promoted to executive VP and chief merchandising officer for hard lines, essentials and capabilities, the position she held when named chief growth officer in February 2021. Last May, she was given additional responsibility for Target in India, with oversight of merchandising, product design and sourcing as well as driving greater connectivity between Target’s multidisciplinary team in India and the retailer’s growth strategies.

Last year presented Hennington and Target with new, daunting challenges in the form of spiraling inflation that forced consumers to put many discretionary purchases on hold and focus on basic necessities. As a result, food and beverage and beauty care delivered a third consecutive year of double-digit sales growth that was driven by increases in both average transaction and customer traffic, offsetting the contraction in such categories as home, apparel and hard lines.

In this environment, beauty has been a particularly bright spot, Hennington told analysts during target’s fourth quarter conference call in February. The retailer’s unique collaboration with Ulta Beauty continued to give Target a genuine differentiator that continued to draw ­customers.

While growth will not come easily in the current volatile environment, Hennington and her colleagues clearly understand what is required to keep Target on its growth path.

“Our purpose to help all families discover the joy of everyday life requires a balance of quality, value and innovation that sets us apart from competitors,” she said. “We are relentless in ensuring every decision supports this delicate balance. It’s easy to say, but takes incredible diligence to execute.”


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