Steinhafel confronted challenges from all sides around this time last year. At home, he had the massive data breach in late 2013 during the height of the holiday shopping season that initially sent customers fleeing. Abroad, he had a disappointing expansion into Canada to grapple with. And on top of that, there was the relentless pressure from competitors such as Wal-Mart and Amazon.

What happened: In May, Target's board ousted Steinhafel. In August, Target hired his successor, Brian Cornell, the retailer's first outsider to become CEO. He has many of the same struggles to face, but has already shown a promising start with the retailer showing a lift in same-store sales in the third quarter for the first time in more than a year.