Tritton’s exit, which came ahead of the holiday season, was mentioned toward the end of a press release announcing the appointment of Michael Fiddelke as executive vice president and chief financial officer of Target, effective Nov. 1, a move that was part of the planned retirement of the incumbent Cathy Smith, who is said to have played an integral role in the retailer’s turnaround. Smith will begin a consulting gig with Target on Nov. 1 to ensure a smooth transition.
Target said Christina Hennington and Jill Sando, two executives with “deep expertise and nearly 40 years of combined experience with the company, will assume interim leadership of the retailer’s merchandising organization.”
In January, Target named Hennington and Sando senior vice presidents and general merchandising managers, reflecting their expanded responsibilities. Hennington and Sando will report directly to president and ceo Brian Cornell.
The retailer said the operating structure will be in place until further notice, adding that it doesn’t plan to initiate an external search at this time.
“Mark brought a tremendous amount of energy to his role as our chief merchant. His focus on developing the next generation of leadership, establishing a comprehensive merchandising strategy and reenergizing our owned brand portfolio are among his most meaningful contributions. Along with the entire Target team, I wish him the best. As we head into the holiday season and beyond, Christina and Jill are well positioned to lead our merchandising organization given their strong business acumen and extensive experience driving ambitious and successful merchandising strategies,” Cornell said.
Bed Bath & Beyond is considered a competitor of Target although the Minneapolis-based discounter offers many more product categories, including apparel, for men, women and kids, footwear, accessories, jewelry, toys, sports equipment, and food, among other things.
Tritton will take the reins of the troubled Bed Bath & Beyond from board member Mary Wilson, who became interim ceo following the exit in May of longtime leader Steven Temares. The retailer has been struggling with declining sales. Three activist investors earlier this year called for Bed Bath & Beyond to bring its business model in line with the omnichannel shopping experience that consumers expect.
Bed Bath & Beyond has been conducting a strategic review of its portfolio with about 1,500 stores, including Buy Buy Baby and Christmas Tree Shops. The company in the most recent quarter posted a net loss of $139 million on revenue of $2.7 billion.
“The opportunity to go from merchant prince to king was no doubt too good for him to pass up,” said Carol Spieckerman, president of Spieckerman Retail. “The top job at Bed Bath & Beyond presents a meaty challenge and the situation there isn’t so far gone that he can’t make a difference. It’s not dissimilar to Target’s trajectory under Brian Cornell.
“The fact that Bed Bath & Beyond chose a merchant as ceo speaks to its perceived weaknesses,” she added. “It will be interesting to see if Tritton goes scorched earth on Bed Bath & Beyond’s brand portfolio and if he ports over Target’s legacy brand partnership model to spice things up. Either way, I expect Bed Bath & Beyond to give him quite a bit of latitude. It’s a great résumé-builder, particularly given the credit he can easily take for his tenure at Target.”
Spieckerman noted that under Cornell, Target has become more collaborative and less of a star culture. “That’s a good thing. Although Tritton made some major moves while there, his departure shouldn’t leave a gaping hole. The fact that he accomplished so much should actually makes it easier for interim leaders and whoever comes next. The scaffolding has been built.”