MINNEAPOLIS — Target Corp. has long prided itself on having a merchandise offering that sets it apart from its peers and has won it the loyalty of millions of American shoppers.
Curating that collection of products, both for Target’s different-sized stores and its digital platforms, is the responsibility of Mark Tritton, and it is one he and his team take very seriously.
“We talk about our ‘Expect More. Pay Less.’ brand promise as more than just a slogan or the tagline of a campaign. It’s what we strive for in everything that we do. It is about bringing a higher level of quality and design to the everyday life of all our guests, and at the same time ensuring that everything we’re offering is affordable and accessible.”
Tritton is Target’s executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, and a member of its executive leadership team. His responsibilities include overseeing all of Target’s enterprise merchandising, buying, sourcing and product design and development.
For his work in helping Target deliver on its “Expect More. Pay Less.” promise with merchandise that is both stylish and affordable, Tritton has been selected by the editors of MMR as one of the publication’s Six Executives Who Made a Difference in 2017.
Differentiation is more important than ever in today’s retail environment, Tritton says, and one of the ways Target differentiates its product offering is working with designers and other partners to develop products that are unique and affordable, and often not available for purchase at other stores.
“Great partnerships are the essence of what we do,” Tritton says, “whether we’re working with national brands or teaming up with designers.”
And he adds that Target doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach, sometimes doing limited-edition collections, and other times doing longer-term partnerships that last for years.
Last year Target teamed up with Harry’s, a popular men’s grooming brand that had previously been sold online only. Target began carrying a selection of Harry’s most popular items in an exclusive, limited-edition starter kit in its stores, and also sold its own subscription to Harry’s blades.
And next month Target is set to launch Hearth & Hand with Magnolia, an exclusive home and lifestyle brand that Target plans to launch in November. The line was designed in partnership with Chip and Joanna Gaines, the couple behind the Magnolia brand and the stars of the hit HGTV show “Fixer Upper.” The line features more than 300 items in a variety of home categories.
The Harry’s and Hearth & Hand by Magnolia partnerships illustrate the way Target identifies unmet consumer needs, and works to address them.
“We look at both the data and the white space in the set, and then we really think about whether we partner with a brand or create it ourselves,” Tritton says. “So with Harry’s we saw a digital only player that had real equity and was at the early stage of its evolution, and we also saw great synergy with our guests. So we invested in that partnership and brought those products into our digital and store environments for the very first time. Those are the kind of unique and somewhat unexpected moments of joy for our guests that we seek. And in the case of Chip and Joanna Gaines, there was a white space in the market for farmhouse style that we saw as a missing opportunity in our mix.”
Target’s product offering has to be adjusted in a number of different ways, with smaller assortments in some of its urban flex-format stores that have less space, and larger assortments on the Target.com website. With the smaller stores Tritton says the merchandise has to be carefully curated to reflect the needs of the community, while still delivering the Target experience that guests expect. On the website Target can carry additional sizes, colors and items to really complement its brand story or address specific category needs, as in home. But Target is careful not to overdo it, Tritton says.
“It’s all curated,” he explains. “Because our guest doesn’t want to sift through thousands and thousands of items. They want the best items, and that’s what they trust Target for.”
Tritton joined Target in 2016. Before that he was executive vice president and president of Nordstrom Product Group, where he oversaw the merchandising, design, manufacturing, marketing and omnichannel distribution of more than 50 private label brands across Nordstrom’s full-price and off-price retail portfolio.
Tritton’s career has included leadership positions at Timberland and at Nike Corp.
What attracted Tritton to Target was the strength of its brand, the team and the fact that it offered a wide variety of products that met a range of customer needs.
“There’s a breadth of categories and experiences we can cross-leverage to create a unique shopping journey for our guests.”
He said another factor was the team and its sense of purpose, and the fact that Target is investing and moving forward, rather than playing defense.
“The real joy for me in joining and becoming part of this team has been the really cooperative, aligned effort,” Tritton says. “We’re really galvanized around singular ideas and strategies. And so whether it’s my peers and partners in marketing, in digital, in stores, in supply chain, we’re all focused on the same goal, and our work is driven by passion, hard work, energy and insight. And that’s a great way to come to work every day.”