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Target CEO Brian Cornell reiterates forecast, apologizes to customers for weekend outages

Key Points
  • Target CEO Brian Cornell apologized to customers for a disappointing weekend after the company experienced outages that shut down its cash registers and credit-card processors for several hours.
  • There was no impact to the company's earnings forecast as a result of the outage.
  • He said the company continues to see a healthy consumer environment and strong GDP growth.
  • However, Cornell is worried about the impact proposed tariffs will have on consumers. 
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Target CEO Brian Cornell on the state of retail, technical difficulties

Target CEO Brian Cornell apologized to customers for a disappointing weekend after the company experienced outages that shut down its cash registers and credit-card processors for several hours.

There was no impact to the company's earnings forecast as a result of the outage, said Cornell in an interview on Wednesday with CNBC's Becky Quick on "Squawk Box."

In May, Target said it expected same-store sales to rise at a low-to-mid-single digit percentage for the year, with a mid-single digit increase in operating income, while adjusted earnings per share would fall within a range of $5.75 to $6.05.

For the second quarter, analysts surveyed by Refinitiv estimate that the company will earn $1.62 per share on $18 billion in revenue.

"Within a couple of hours, our teams were able to identify the root cause and push the fix to our stores and get us back up and running," he said. "But disappointing performance."

Cornell said that the company continues to see a healthy consumer environment and strong GDP growth. "Wages are rising, interest rates have stayed in check, and overall, there's strong consumer confidence," he said. Cornell noted that he is starting to see a separation between the winners and losers in retail, and would place Target firmly "in the winner's camp."

Although Target is helped by the versatility in its portfolio, Cornell said that the $300 billion in proposed tariffs are still concerning. "We've got a few more levers to pull, but if these tariffs go into effect, prices are going to go up and that's going to affect consumers."

On Saturday afternoon, registers at Target stores shut down for roughly two hours due to an unspecified "internal technology issue." The next day, credit-card payments processing was down at some stores for around 90 minutes as its payment processing company NCR experienced technical issues at a data center. Target has said the two issues were unrelated.

As of Tuesday's market close, Target's stock, which is valued at $45 billion, and has risen more than 30% since the beginning of the year. The cash register glitch has weighed on Target shares since the weekend.

Earlier this month, Target announced that it would expand childcare benefits and family leave for its salaried and hourly workers.

"We're starting to think very differently about paid family leave," Cornell said. "We actually doubled the number of weeks available for our team members." Starting on June 30, the new policy offers workers up to four weeks of time off. It will also include 20 days of backup child or elder care.

Target has also recently announced an increase in the company's starting pay to $13 an hour, with plans to bring it to $15 by the end of the year. Cornell said the changes are taking place at headquarters, stores and distribution centers.