Las Vegas – Target Corp. has hired a longtime Kroger executive to oversee its struggling grocery business.
The Minneapolis-based retailer selected Jeff Burt to be its senior vice president of grocery, fresh food and beverages. He will start April 10.
Burt, who has been with Kroger for 30 years, was most recently president of its Fred Meyer division, which is based in Portland, Ore., and operates about 130 stores in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. He was previously in charge of Kroger's central division.
"He understands the food business from A to Z," Target CEO Brian Cornell said of Burt on Monday during a keynote speech at Shoptalk, a digital commerce conference in Las Vegas.
But at the same time, while Target wants to offer customers a great food experience, Cornell noted that groceries will be a complement to the retailer's core business categories of style, wellness, kids and baby products.
Target has been searching for a new grocery chief since Anne Dament left last year. The company's grocery business has continued to see sales declines despite efforts to add more organic food and healthier items as well as rolling out new merchandising displays in select markets.
Food accounts for about one-fifth of Target's overall sales, making it roughly on par with its apparel and accessories business.
Analysts have been pushing the retailer to address shortcomings. More than one expressed disappointment that Cornell did not address it more at the company's investor meeting in New York City at the end of February.
In his new role, Burt will report to Mark Tritton, Target's chief merchandising officer.
"After an extensive search to find a new leader to join our team, I'm confident that Jeff is the right person for the charge," Tritton said in a statement. "His vast industry expertise will accelerate our plans to bring a unique food and beverage experience to Target guests."
In his Shoptalk address, Cornell talked about a new store prototype, which includes an entrance where shoppers will see more "grab and go" food — and beer and wine where allowed.
"I've always admired the love that shoppers have for Target," Burt said in a statement. "There is an opportunity to harness the power of the Target brand to more clearly cater to what consumers want when they're shopping for food and beverage."