Reviewed by Laura Lyn McLeod
No matter the spoken goal or purpose of an organization, every organization, especially in corporate retail, is ultimately driven by the quest for profit. Realistically, making profit relies on a focus on customer relations, management, marketing, advertising, and all other aspects of business. In On Target, Laura Rowley reveals the evolving journey of the Target Corporation to its present esteemed position and the driving management forces behind the company’s success. Rowley details how Target establishes itself as a discount store with comparable style to leading department stores.
Rowley gives readers insight on the Dayton family’s history in retail sales that jump-started the now well-respected Target Corporation. Target stores were first opened in 1962 by the five brothers in the Dayton family. Because the Dayton family’s business experience was in department store sales, their aspiration for Target was to offer discount shopping as an up-scale, chic, stylish, and enjoyable experience.
One of Target’s biggest concerns highlighted in the book was capturing the interest of the bargain hunter. Rowley covers some of the customer relations measures taken by Target from the foundation to the present. From the easy, racetrack format to the merry red shopping carts, Target works to create a fun, convenient, and enjoyable store environment. In order to improve customer service, Target was one of the first retailers to use a real-time customer relationship management system. (Rowley, p. 13) This allows a customer’s records of transactions to be easily accessed for future service. Another customer relationships protocol that the book describes is the Target Visa Smart Card, which allows loyal customers to choose a school for Target to donate money equal to one percent of their purchases.
In the 1990s, Target referred to Walt Disney’s staff training initiatives to improve customer service. The book gives examples of the measures Target took to improve internal operations. The store began referring to employees as “team members” and customers as “guests” (Rowley, p. 68). A training workshop was started in order to educate staff on the principles, history, and mission of Target. The courses cover Target’s traditions, understanding the guests, and displaying a fervent attitude. The book also states that executive visits were made more frequent and informal in nature (Rowley, p. 68). Rowley does an excellent job detailing the strategies taken for improvement in customer relations.
A great portion of the book is dedicated to the management of the corporation and the history of Target’s principles. Most of Target’s internal growth was over the past two decades under the leadership of Robert Ulrich. An interesting custom discussed in the book is “jetiquette,” where the highest present official in the corporation serves all the other passengers when on the corporate jet (Rowley, p. 86). This is a small example of the breakdown of barriers between levels of management in Target. The Target executive team created a substantial document for management called the Guides for Growth (Rowley, p. 144). This document is still used today in Target operations. The document explains issues of operation and plans of action to continually improve quality service. Plans of action are broken down into objectives for employees all the way down the management ranks.
In the context of management, I believe that the Target Corporation has a very successful system in place. Target understands the importance of branding and representing its products. For example, Target uses fashion icons, marketing programs, and highlights of its philanthropy in visual advertising in order to appeal to all types of people and make its logo universally recognizable. The Target Corporation also does an excellent job balancing the realms of great leadership and management. Target leads by individually delegating objectives to every employee in the company. In addition, the company exemplifies its focuses on people through employee benefits, customer service, and community philanthropy. Target uses an internal evaluation system to insure excellence in internal operations. Every level of employment is evaluated, all the way up the ranks to the CEO.
There were many aspects of Target management that have remnants of collaborative management and the TQM model of managing. Target promotes individual knowledge and competence through the Guides for Growth, which outlines the development of authority. Also, decisions are always being made, and the decisions incorporate opinions from all levels of employment. For example, the book says that Ulrich once pulled aside the best ten, female, front-end managers to tell him how to fix the efficiency problems of the line (Rowley, p. 152). Rowley also explains how upper management uses “walkarounds” to obtain input from employees. Quality is also very important to the Target Corporation. The company works to offer upscale shopping at a bargain price. Target purchasers work with designers to market valued, well-respected name brands. In addition, management and the inviting store environment are structured around customer service. The Target Corporation is always focusing long-term on building customer loyalty through its service.
If a public relations student had time to sit around and twiddle their thumbs, I would recommend reading this book. Although it highlights some keys to successful management, it intertwines a lot of useless information as well. There are parts of the book that really drag. However, I do feel that if a student has an interest in retail marketing, the book is very beneficial to read. Rowley stresses the importance of treating your employees well if you want happy customers. Target offers many examples on how to create a positive work atmosphere and instill leadership qualities in employees. In addition, Target has an exemplary model for diffusion of power in a corporation. The book is a great teaching resource for team management and management strategies to success in the retail sales industry.