×

CNBC Transcript: CNBC Exclusive: Target Chairman & CEO Brian Cornell Speaks with CNBC's Courtney Reagan on "Fast Money Halftime Report" Today

WHEN: Today, Wednesday, November 19th

WHERE: CNBC's "Fast Money Halftime Report"

Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with Target Chairman & CEO Brian Cornell today, Wednesday, November 19th on CNBC's "Fast Money Halftime Report." Following are links to the interview on CNBC.com: http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000331422, http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000331621 and http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000331600.

All references must be sourced to CNBC.

SCOTT WAPNER: WELCOME BACK. THERE IS THE CHART OF THE DAY. IT IS TARGET UP 7 AND A HALF PERCENT. A NEW HIGH AFTER ITS EARNINGS BEAT EXPECTATIONS. SAME STORE SALES ALSO RISING FOR THE FIRST TIME IN A YEAR. A SIGN THAT PERHAPS THE RETAILER IS FINALLY RECOVERING FROM ONE OF THE LARGEST DATA BREACHES IN HISTORY. CEO BRIAN CORNELL HAS BEEN ON THE JOB FOR 99 DAYS AND JOINS OUR COURTNEY REAGAN LIVE FROM THE COMPANY'S HEADQUARTERS IN MINNEAPOLIS FOR AN EXCLUSIVE. COURTNEY, IT'S A MOMENT WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR ALL DAY AND THE MOMENT IS YOURS.

COURTNEY REAGAN: THANK YOU VERY MUCH, SCOTT. I AM HERE WITH TARGET CEO BRIAN CORNELL. WE'RE IN A MINNEAPOLIS TARGET STORE, SET FOR THE HOLIDAYS. BUT I WANT TO GET RIGHT INTO THE MEAT OF WHAT WE WANT TO TALK ABOUT. YOU'RE 99 DAYS INTO THE JOB. YOU HAVE OUTLINED A NUMBER OF THINGS YOU WANT TO IMPROVE. CANADA, TRAFFIC, OMNICHANNEL, GUEST PERSPECTIVE. HOW, THOUGH, ARE YOU GOING DO THAT TO BRING TARGET BACK TO TARGET?

BRIAN CORNELL: SURE. WELL, I'M GLAD YOU'RE COUNTING. I'VE LOST COUNT AT THIS POINT. BUT AFTER 99 DAYS, WE'VE SPENT LOT OF TIME REALLY TRYING TO MAKING SURE WE'RE CLEAR ABOUT THE STRATEGY. YOU KNOW, WHAT DOES THE GUEST EXPECT FROM TARGET? HOW DO WE GET THAT TARGET BACK? AND I THINK WE PUT TOGETHER A GOOD ROAD MAP. WE UNDERSTAND THE GUEST HAS TO LEAD US THROUGH THAT PLAN. SO WE'RE VERY COMMITTED AS YOU HAVE SEEN TO BUILDING OUT OUR OMNICHANNEL EXPERIENCE. AND THAT SHOWED UP IN OUR THIRD QUARTER RESULTS. I MEAN, UP OVER 30 PERCENT. REALLY FEEL GOOD ABOUT THE PROGRESS WE ARE MAKING THERE. WE KNOW WE HAVE TO ESTABLISH MERCHANDISING AUTHORITY WHICH YOU ARE SEEING AROUND THE STORE HERE TODAY. REALLY MAKING SURE WE HAVE GOT THE RIGHT PRODUCT THAT OUR GUEST IS LOOKING FOR. PARTICULARLY IN THOSE SIGNATURE CATEGORIES. WE KNOW WE HAVE TO BE FAMOUS GOING FORWARD FOR OUR ASSORTMENT, OUR EXPERIENCE WE CREATE IN BABY, IN KIDS, IN HOME AND IN STYLE. THOSE REALLY IMPORTANT CATEGORIES FOR US. WE THINK WELLNESS IS CRITICALLY IMPORTANT. SO WE'VE HAD SOME MERCHANDISING PLANS. WE'RE REALLY GOING TO MAKE SURE WE HAVE VERY DISTINCT SIGNATURE CATEGORIES. WE'RE CHANGING THE IN-STORE EXPERIENCE. I WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT OUR GUESTS CAN EXPERIENCE TARGET ANY WAY THEY WANT. WHETHER IT IS IN STORE, WHETHER THEY ARE SITTING AT THAT THEIR DESK PLACING AN ORDER AND COMING IN TO PICK UP, OR IF WE SHIP DIRECTLY TO THEIR HOME. AND MORE AND MORE WE'RE DOING THAT ACTUALLY FROM OUR STORES. REALLY MAKING SURE WE'RE REALLY EFFICIENT WITH THAT LAST MILE. AND WE'VE GOT TO MAKE SURE OUR MESSAGING CONNECTS WITH THE GUEST. SO, WE'VE GOT SOME GREAT CREATIVE FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON. I'M GETTING EMAILS EVERYDAY FROM FRIENDS, PEOPLE I KNOW SAYING, "BOY, THAT IS SOME OF THE BEST CREATIVE – BEST ADVERTISING WE'VE SEEN FROM TARGET IN YEARS." AND WE'RE UPPING OUR GAME DIGITAL. SO WE'VE GOT A SIGNIFICANT PRESENCE IN THE DIGITAL SPACE RIGHT NOW. SO WE'RE TRYING TO BRING THAT ALL TOGETHER, BUT REALLY SENDING CLEAR PRIORITIES BASED ON WHAT THE GUEST IS TELLING US TO REALLY SET TARGET OFF ON A GREAT NEW PATH.

REAGAN: SO LET'S TALK ABOUT TARGET CANADA.

CORNELL: SURE.

REAGAN: IT HAS BEEN IMPROVING BUT EVEN CFO JOHN MULLIGAN SAYS THE RESULTS ARE STILL "UNACCEPTABLE." IS THERE AN EXIT PLAN FROM TARGET CANADA IF THESE TRENDS CONTINUE?

CORNELL: RIGHT NOW WE'RE VERY FOCUSED ON IMPROVING PERFORMANCE IN CANADA. BUT I WILL TELL YOU, WE ARE NOT HAPPY WITH PERFORMANCE. WE ARE NOT HAPPY AS WE SIT HERE TODAY. WE WEREN'T HAPPY WITH THE THIRD QUARTER. WE HAVE TO IMPROVE OUR PERFORMANCE STORE BY STORE. WE'VE HAD A VERY GOOD LEADERSHIP TEAM IN PLACE. COMBINATION OF EXPERIENCED TARGET EXECUTIVES AND CANADIAN EXECUTIVES THAT UNDERSTAND THE LANDSCAPE. WE'VE IMPROVED OUR SUPPLY CHAIN, WHICH MEANS OUR INSTOCK CONDITIONS ARE MUCH BETTER, ACTUALLY THAN THEY HAVE EVER BEFORE. SO AS WE GO INTO THE HOLIDAYS, INSTOCKS ARE IMPROVED. OUR TEAMS RALLIED AROUND MAKING SURE WE CREATE A GREAT INSTORE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE AND WE SURROUND THE GUEST WITH GREAT SERVICE. BUT THE NEXT SIX WEEKS ARE CRITICALLY IMPORTANT TO SEE HOW THE GUEST CONNECTS WITH OUR BRAND DURING THIS IMPORTANT HOLIDAY SEASON. AND I'M GOING TO ANALYZE AND ASSESS EVERY SINGLE STORE IN CANADA, BUT EVERY STORE HAS TO IMPROVE. WE'RE SEEING PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT, BUT WE ARE WAY BEHIND WHERE WE SHOULD BE. SO THIS IS A CRITICAL HOLIDAY SEASON FOR TARGET IN CANADA.

REAGAN: AND SPEAKING OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON IN GENERAL, THE NATIONAL RETAIL FEDERATION IS FORECASTING SALES GROWTH OF 4.1%. THAT'S PRETTY STRONG. YOU JUST HAD A STRONG QUARTER. IT SOUNDS LIKE NOVEMBER IS TRENDING BETTER THAN YOU HAD EXPECTED, BUT I GET THE FEELING YOU ARE NOT AS BULLISH AS THE NRF. IS THAT TRUE? AND IF SO, WHY?

CORNELL: WELL COURTNEY, IT COMES DOWN TO THE FACT IT'S NOVEMBER 19th. IT IS STILL REALLY EARLY. NOW, WE'RE OFF TO A REALLY GOOD START AND I FEEL VERY GOOD ABOUT THE FIRST COUPLE OF WEEKS OF THE QUARTER, BUT IT IS STILL EARLY. NOW, WE'RE EIGHT DAYS AWAY FROM THE BIG DAY THAT REALLY STARTS THE HOLIDAY SEASON. AND WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO SEE HOW THE CONSUMER, THE SHOPPER AND OUR GUEST REACTS. SO WE'RE OPTIMISTIC. I THINK WE HAVE THE GREAT MERCHANDISING PLANS. WE'RE READY FROM AN OMNICHANNEL STANDPOINT. YOU KNOW, WE ARE GOING TO MAKE SURE WE CREATE A GREAT IN STORE EXPERIENCE. OUR TEAM IS FIRED UP ABOUT THE HOLIDAYS. BUT I THINK WE'VE GOT TO BE CAUTIOUS RIGHT NOW. IT'S STILL REALLY EARLY.

REAGAN: AND SPEAKING OF HOW THE GUEST REACTS, CONSUMERS ARE BARGAIN HUNTERS, ESPECIALLY THIS SEASON. YOU HAVE SAID IT IS GOING TO BE COMPETITIVE. SO HAVE OTHERS. WE'VE SEEN SOME SHOPPERS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF PRICE MATCHING STRATEGIES AT ONE OF YOURS COMPETITORS, WALMART. SHOWING A PRICE FOR A $400 PLAYSTATION THAT WAS $90 DOLLARS AND THE STORE ASSOCIATE MATCHED IT. IS THE AGGRESSIVE PROMOTIONS AND INITIATIVES WORTH THE RISK TO THE BOTTOM LINE?

CORNELL: WELL, WE KNOW THE HOLIDAYS ARE GOING TO BE PROMOTIONAL. THE CONSUMER, THE SHOPPER, OUR GUEST IS GOING TO LOOK FOR VALUE. THEY ARE ALSO LOOKING FOR GREAT INNOVATION. AND WE HAVE OVER 35,000 NEW ITEMS IN OUR STORES FOR THE HOLIDAY. SO WE THINK INNOVATION IS REALLY IMPORTANT. WE RECOGNIZE, YOU KNOW, PRICE MATCHING IS PART OF THE PROGRAM. BUT WE'VE ALSO TRAINED OUR TEAM MEMBERS TO MAKE SURE THEY PERSONALLY TAKE THE TIME TO MATCH THOSE ADS. SO WE'RE DOING OUR HOMEWORK, WE'VE GOT OUR TEAM TRAINED. I'M VERY CONFIDENT THAT OUR INSTORE TEAM IS READY FOR PRICE MATCHING, BUT THEY ARE REALLY GEARED UP AROUND MAKING SURE WE PROVIDE A GREAT INSTORE HOLIDAY EXPERIENCE.

REAGAN: IT IS NOVEMBER 19TH. DECEMBER 19THOF LAST YEAR WAS WHEN THE DATA BREACH BECAME PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE. IT WAS CONFIRMED BY THE COMPANY. YOU SPENT SOMEWHERE AROUND $158 MILLION FIXING THE PROBLEMS, RAMPING UP SECURITY. ARE YOU CONFIDENT THAT THAT IS ENOUGH?

CORNELL: WE FOCUS ON THIS EVERY DAY. AND I HAVE TALKED ABOUT THIS A LOT. OBVIOUSLY, IT IS A QUESTION I RECEIVE ALMOST EVERY DAY. ALL 99 DAYS THAT I'VE BEEN HERE. AND WE HAVE A VERY TALENTED TEAM IN PLACE. WE BROUGHT IN GREAT LEADERSHIP. WE HAVE STRENGTHENED OUR CAPABILITIES, OUR SYSTEMS. I'M PERSONALLY VERY INVOLVED. AND WE'RE MAKING SURE THAT WE TAKE THAT TO A WHOLE OTHER LEVEL. SO DATA SECURITY IS AN INDUSTRYWIDE ISSUE. FROM BANKING TO RETAIL TO RESTAURANTS. BUT WE'VE UPPED OUR GAME. WE'VE GOT A GREAT TEAM IN PLACE, GREAT SYSTEMS, GREAT CAPABILITIES AND WE MANAGE IT EVERY SINGLE DAY.

REAGAN: VERY QUICKLY, ONE FINAL THING. IF YOU HAD ONE WISH FOR THE TARGET HOLIDAY SEASON, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

CORNELL: WELL, WE WANT TO DELIGHT OUR GUEST. AND IT IS ALL ABOUT CONNECTING WITH THE GUEST. WHETHER THEY ARE SHOPPING IN STORE, THEY ARE SHOPPING ONLINE AND PICKING UP IN ONE OF OUR LOCATIONS, OR WE'RE SHIPPING DIRECTLY TO THEM, WE WANT TO CREATE A GREAT HOLIDAY EXPERIENCE. WE WANT YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS AND OTHERS TALKING ABOUT THE FACT THAT THEY CAME TO TARGET AND THAT EXPECT MORE PAY LESS EXPERIENCE CAME TO LIFE. THEY SAW GREAT PRODUCT AND WHEN THEY LOOKED AT THE PRICE AND SAID, "WOW. ONLY AT TARGET." SO, WE WANT TO CREATE A GREAT INSTORE EXPERIENCE, A GREAT ONLINE EXPERIENCE AND I WANT GUESTS TALKING ABOUT WHAT A GREAT HOLIDAY EXPERIENCE THEY SAW AT TARGET.

REAGAN: I HOPE YOU GET THERE. I HOPE WE SEE STRONG SALES AND STRONG TRAFFIC.

CORNELL: WE HOPE SO TOO. THANKS FOR COMING TO VISIT US TODAY.

REAGAN: ABSOLUTELY.

CORNELL: WE REALLY APPRECIATE IT.

REAGAN: THANKS SO MUCH, BRIAN.

CORNELL: THANKS. HAVE A GOOD HOLIDAY.

REAGAN: THANK YOU, YOU TOO. AND NOW, BACK TO YOU SCOTT.

About CNBC:

With CNBC in the U.S., CNBC in Asia Pacific, CNBC in Europe, Middle East and Africa, CNBC World and CNBC HD , CNBC is the recognized world leader in business news and provides real-time financial market coverage and business information to approximately 371 million homes worldwide, including more than 100 million households in the United States and Canada. CNBC also provides daily business updates to 400 million households across China. The network's 15 live hours a day of business programming in North America (weekdays from 4:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. ET) is produced at CNBC's global headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and includes reports from CNBC News bureaus worldwide. CNBC at night features a mix of new reality programming, CNBC's highly successful series produced exclusively for CNBC and a number of distinctive in-house documentaries.

CNBC also has a vast portfolio of digital products which deliver real-time financial market news and information across a variety of platforms. These include CNBC.com, the online destination for global business; CNBC PRO, the premium, integrated desktop/mobile service that provides real-time global market data and live access to CNBC global programming; and a suite of CNBC Mobile products including the CNBC Real-Time iPhone and iPad Apps.

Members of the media can receive more information about CNBC and its programming on the NBC Universal Media Village Web site at http://www.nbcumv.com/programming/cnbc.