An important demographic for many retailers appears to be staying home more these days.
In remarks at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech Conference in Aspen, Colorado, Target CEO Brian Cornell cited an 11% dip in shopping activity among Hispanic consumers in the past several months. (A Target spokesman said later he was referencing industrywide data from the NPD Group, The Star-Tribune reported.)
“There’s almost a cocooning factor,” Cornell said.
“They are staying at home. They are going out less often, particularly along border towns in the United States. You’re seeing a change in behavior.”
Cornell emphasized that Target is working to connect with these shoppers that are staying in more. And the drop-off in shopping activity has not deterred Target’s Hispanic-focused marketing efforts, he added, as well as its listening efforts to better understand their needs.
“If you look at our current media campaign, you’ll see a really important balance between our general population campaign and a very focused effort to continue to build that relationship with the Hispanic consumer,” Cornell said.
Cornell highlighted the company’s recent efforts to foster innovation by providing seed money — an effort he said made him realize that the company’s innovation efforts are best when aimed at improving customer experience.
“Innovation has to first start with, ‘What is our guest expecting from Target, how does it help out core enterprise and what are some things we can do to build a stronger brand?’” he said. “We’re working on the future and embracing technology, embracing innovation but really funneling it into our core enterprise to meet the needs of our guests each and every week.”
Cornell acknowledged that offering the brands that shoppers are looking for is an integral part of reaching consumers. He cited Target’s work with razor company Harry’s, which began online as a subscription-based service. Target brought Harry’s into 1,800 stores earlier this year and consumer response has been strong.
Looking to the future, Cornell said perfecting a harmony between Target’s physical and digital presence is a priority. And that the physical store will continue to be a large part of its strategy. He cited Whole Foods Market’s recent acquisition by Amazon as evidence of the continuing importance of physical retailing.
“I recognize that we’ve got to be thinking about tomorrow, but tomorrow includes physical stores and a great digital connection with a guest,” Cornell said. “And I think the Amazon-Whole Foods announcement just validates that even Amazon recognizes a great physical presence is going to play a role in the future. … In today’s environment, stores still matter, and even for Amazon, I think there’s a recognition that a physical store and proximity is important to the consumer.”
It’s Target’s ability to deliver on both of these, as well as its agility, that Cornell sees as positioning it well for the coming years.
“The versatility of our model, the multi-category nature and our ability to fulfill that both from a physical and a digital standpoint makes us very unique in the market,” he said.