Target CEO: Sales strong despite omicron

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Target is heading into the final stretch of the holiday season before Christmas with lots of momentum.

The discounter’s CEO Brian Cornell reports that holiday sales have continued to stay strong even amid worries about the new omicron variant of COVID-19.

Like its big box rivals, Target has been able to defy industrywide challenges like labor shortages, inflation and supply chain snarls as the discounter keeps its shelves full, tames inflation and is armed with a full seasonal staff to serve customers.

AP recently interviewed Cornell on a wide variety of topics from omincron to inflation, as well Target’s decision to no longer open its stores on Thanksgiving.

Under Cornell’s stewardship, Target had been accelerating its online services such as curbside pickup and same-day services through Shipt, while sprucing up its stores well before the pandemic. The company raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour in 2020, a commitment it pledged in 2017 and well ahead of many grocery rivals.

Such moves helped the company quickly react to shoppers’ dramatic shift online. For the holidays, Cornell said it’s been able to meet its goal to hire 100,000 seasonal workers.

The discounter is also offering $2 more to store and service center employees for the peak days, including Saturday and Sunday in the final weeks before Christmas.

Still, Cornell predicts that industrywide supply chain issues will be around for several years. That’s why the company added 30,000 new supply chain roles to help with the holiday season and beyond. And Cornell is monitoring to see how inflation will affect shopping habits at Target.

"I think we’re going to learn a lot more about how the consumer reacts to inflationary pricing over the next six months…but I think it’s early days and I think during the holiday season, guests are looking at their favorite brands right now as they prepare to entertain," he recently told The Associated Press.

Cornell adds that his teams across the country are prepared for meet the new American consumer where he or she is this holiday season after many lessons learned at the peak of the pandemic.

"We’re ready for them. Whether it’s an in-store experience using pickup or drive-up, or having that Shipt shopper simply come to their homes. But I can tell you, going across the country last week I saw great traffic, really good engagement. Guests were out there shopping, and shopping all of our categories, and I haven’t seen any change in behavior recently," he said.