Target taps Kroger executive to fix one of its biggest trouble spots

A shopper approaches the Target store in Mount Kisco, New York.
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Target on Monday took a step toward fixing one of its biggest trouble spots: Food.

The discount retailer said it has hired Kroger executive Jeff Burt to head up the company's ailing grocery business. As senior vice president of the division, Burt will oversee Target's grocery, fresh food and beverage strategies.

The 30-year Kroger veteran most recently served as president of the company's Fred Meyer division. He will report to Target's executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, Mark Tritton, starting April 10.

"His vast industry expertise will accelerate our plans to bring a unique food and beverage experience to Target guests," Tritton said in a statement.

Target has been under pressure to revamp its grocery business, which accounts for roughly one-fifth its annual revenue. Though it has been testing upgrades to the division — including a focus on local products and adult beverages — it's been criticized by Wall Street for moving too slow.

At the company's recent investor day in Manhattan, Cornell briefly spoke to the changes Target was making. However, he reiterated that it is not a full-service grocer.

Instead of using food as a means to bring shoppers into stores — a strategy being used by Wal-Mart — it will continue to use grocery as a way to get them to add additional items to their baskets.

Earlier Monday, Target said it would open a new store in midtown Manhattan this October, one of 30 small shops it has planned for this year.

Target CEO Brian Cornell will speak at the Shoptalk conference in Las Vegas Monday afternoon.

Target shares were slightly lower in afternoon trading. They're down roughly 25 percent this year.

(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote to CEO Brian Cornell. The statement was actually made by Mark Tritton.)