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At this year’s National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show, thousands of people have braved the pandemic to attend the largest conference in the world focusing on a sector that has been forced to adapt rapidly over the past two years. With supply chain challenges, employee shortages, inflation, and the aforementioned pandemic, retailers have been hit hard. Some have managed to adapt while others have either shuttered their doors or are close to it. Given a gut-wrenching terrain like none other in recent times, what are these two CEOs of multi-billion dollar companies doing to produce massive growth?

Brian Cornell, CEO of Target lists not losing sight of the company’s north star as one of the many ways the retailer has continued to navigate the arduous terrain. In 2020, Target posted sales of $93 billion, a 20% increase over the previous year. The north star in question is Target’s desire to provide a ‘little bit of joy to the families that come to our stores,’ Cornell shared at NRF. 

He went on to say that Target is also listening to their customers. ‘Customers want newness,’ Cornell stated. That includes adding mini-stores for brands such as Ulta and Apple in select locations and continuing to innovate. Delighting the customer is paramount to Target. 

The other area that Target is vested in is personal growth and development for team members. Cornell stated that Target wants its culture to be about care, growth, and winning together. Where many companies are seeking to replace employees, Target has committed to initiatives such as front-line employee debt-free education to the tune of $200 million over the next four years. 

Although the pandemic shuttered millions of businesses, Cornell remains optimistic about Target’s future citing their ongoing commitment to the online experience and the continuing to provide options for customers who are trimming their budgets. Cornell discussed how during inflationary times, people tend to stay at home to eat as opposed to going to restaurants or choose non-national brands that tend to be cheaper. Target wants to be there at the forefront meeting consumer demand by offering lower cost options.

Sumit Singh, CEO of Chewy.Com, shares customer and employee centered focus which was essential given the increase in pet owners during past two years. 23 million homes acquired a new furry family member since the beginning of the pandemic and with that customer base growing, Chewy understands that enthusiastic team members help to grow enthusiastic customers. With a vision to be the most trusted destination for pet parents on the planet, Singh, and his team, are making that a reality. Revenues have tripled in the past three years with an outstanding $7.15 billion in 2020, the team continues to innovate and think about things differently.

Chewy’s 3,000 customer care reps respond to the needs of 20 million customers within 4 seconds. There is no AI answering phones and the ‘customer first’ operating principle dominates Chewy’s focus. Even when telehealth was added for pets, Singh shared the story of one veterinarian who stayed on the phone with a concerned pet parent for two hours.

‘Each interaction at Chewy should be like going to Disney,’ Singh shared. In other words, he envisions a fun playfulness with customer interaction that leaves people wanting to come back time and again.

What is apparent about both CEO’s is that the customer and employee are equally as important as innovation. Regardless of the size of your business, these are commonalities that can easily be incorporated to grow a substantial, adaptable, and resilient business.

Susan Sly

Author Susan Sly

Susan Sly is considered a thought leader in AI, award winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker, best-selling author, and tech investor. Susan has been featured on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime, ABC Family, and quoted in Forbes Online, Marketwatch, Yahoo Finance, and more. She is the mother of four and has been working in human potential for over two decades.

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