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PG Explores Target's Food Turnaround with SVP Anne Dament


Editor's Note: This is the first of a two-part Progressive Grocer exclusive interview with Target Corp.’s SVP of Merchandising Anne Dament. The full interview appears in PG's August 2016 print issue.

Target Corp.’s recently hired SVP of merchandising, Anne Dament, is in the bull’s eye of the 1,800-store retailer’s bold campaign to convert the full potential of its estimated $20 billion grocery business into an inspired destination in line with other parts of its stores.

Settling into her still-new role of leading the strategic repositioning of the Minneapolis-based national retailer’s food business to make it more reflective of its widely admired flagship brand, Dament is decidedly up for the task.

“My very first job was in a local grocery store, and I’ve had a passion for food ever since,” affirms Dament, who relished the opportunity to bring her professional experience and love of the retail food business to Target as its grocery segment transformation got underway.

Charged with leading Target’s food business makeover – which has included item-by-item tear-downs and overhauled processes and practices to enhance freshness, assortment and convenience – Dament says she’s pumped about the opportunities to elevate the company’s gastronomic cred to destination levels.

The key categories factoring most prominently in her agenda include better-for-you snacks, coffee and tea, premium sauces and oils, specialty candy, wine and craft beer, and yogurt and granola. Concurrently, she and her team are nurturing the expansion of purely natural, organic, locally grown and gluten-free choices; healthy meal solutions; exclusive partnerships; and unique selections for both everyday and special occasions.

Early results of her team’s efforts have thus far been promising, as evidenced by Target’s food segment outpacing its overall business in the back half of last year. Meanwhile, momentum continues to accelerate amid a companion menu of other large-scale initiatives that Dament is overseeing to elevate and solidify shopper affinity for the retailer’s food offerings.

Maximizing Target’s Food Segment

Recently chosen as a 2016 Top Women in Grocery – a first-time showing for Target on PGs national list of female food industry movers and shakers – Dament began her 20-year grocery and CPG career as a buyer at Minneapolis-based Supervalu. She next moved on to Safeway, where she held various category and sales management roles, and later led the Pleasanton, Calif.-based supermarket chain’s homecare and general merchandising business operations, focusing closely on the retailer’s global procurement strategies. In her final role at Safeway, Dament was group VP of perishables, where she orchestrated new assortment and merchandising strategies, including meal solutions and grab-and-go options.

Returning to Minnesota in April 2015 to join Target from PetSmart, where her most recent role was VP of services, Dament also worked at ConAgra Foods’ Grist Mill Co. subsidiary and Otis Spunkmeyer.

“From a business perspective, grocery is a critical component that we’re working to leverage as part of Target’s overall strategy,” says Dament. As the company’s largest individual business unit, accounting for one-quarter of its total sales, Target’s food segment “represents more than half of our total transactions,” she notes.

To gain a better understanding of both its grocery business and customer profiles, Dament has spent the past year unpacking and digesting insights revealed in “significant deep dives across our entire business, inclusive of assortment, quality, produce, perishables and center store,” alongside “very deep dives” into guest preferences, whose shared feedback “is a critical component as we shape our strategy.”

Immersion Excursions

The most direct path to do so, observes Dament, “is by spending time in our guests’ homes” to gain firsthand insights into their families’ habits, routines and preferences. The overall experience and resulting takeaways, she adds, “were absolutely fantastic. They opened up their homes and let us look in their cupboards and refrigerators. We watched them create grocery lists, search for online recipes and post their ideas [on social networks]. And what we found from our extensive research,” she continues, “was that our [core grocery shoppers] use food as a way to connect with their families, and how food keeps them connected to their communities and their culture.”

Dament was also intrigued by other insights unearthed during Target’s food immersion research interactions, which were gleaned from backyard guests in Minneapolis, as well as other major markets, including metro Dallas. “We absolutely learned that our [focus group panelists] want access to fresh and healthy options that are both easy and affordable, and that they really want to be inspired while food shopping,” she recounts. “They love shopping at Target, but they don’t necessarily look at grocery as the reason that they shop at Target.”

However, considering that more than half of Target’s transactions have a grocery item in the basket, Dament believes it’s evident that “our guests are shopping for food while they’re in our stores” – but not nearly to the fullest extent possible.

Armed with ample consumer data from the deep-dive findings of Target’s extensive in-home research, Dament and her team were well equipped to mold a rejuvenated strategy and accompanying framework for “a very simple, yet very focused approach. We want to be a trusted and reliable option for our guests’ food needs while they’re shopping at Target, and we want to win in three component pillars,” which are the “fundamentals of a laser-sharp focus on freshness, abundance and quality; a very strong presence of natural and organic; and excellent execution of natural and organic. We want to achieve differentiation with a relentless focus on assortment within our signature grocery categories.”

The best way to achieve these ends, Dament asserts, is an imperative “to work as closely as possible with our vendors to create meaningful partnerships that lead to unique assortments” in the specified key consumable categories. “By fully leveraging the strength of Target, we want to make grocery shopping fun, enjoyable and easy,” she notes. From an inspirational/aspirational perspective, Dament says, “We want to bring grocery to life in our stores, with really good displays, sampling programs and cross-merchandising.”

Readily acknowledging the aggressive agenda before her, Dament is unwavering in her conviction that it’s both realistic and attainable. “We’ve been working on much of this for a year, and from the minute I started in my role, I hit the ground running,” she points out. “It’s been a fantastic year, and we’re really making substantial progress.”

To read Part 2 of PG's exclusive interview with Target's Anne Dament, click here.

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