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2012 Power 50: No. 22 Gregg Steinhafel

Gregg Steinhafel has brought Target through tough times and into better days. Even as aggressive remodeling is under way and the company invests in new stores, sales and earnings were up for the first quarter of this year.

“We’re very pleased with our first-quarter earnings, which benefited from better-than-expected sales,” Steinhafel, Target chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement this spring.

“While our outlook for the remainder of 2012 reflects continued economic uncertainty, we are confident in our strategy, keenly focused on delivering an affordable and inspirational merchandise assortment to our guests and committed to making thoughtful investments in our U.S. and Canadian business segments that we expect will reward our shareholders over time.”

Since that earlier comment — in fact, last month — Target Corp. announced that its board voted to boost its quarterly dividend to shareholders by 20%.

Steinhafel told investors earlier this year that the most visible change in remodeled stores will be a larger food offering.

He also said that Target is pleased with the results of PFresh, as it calls the expanded food program it launched three years ago.

The store remodels are on schedule.

“Target has added fresh foods to more than 800 general merchandise stores nationwide over the last three years, and by the end of 2012, the expanded fresh food layout will be in about 1,100 stores — about 60% of all store locations,” Eddie Baeb, a Target spokesman, told SN.

Steinhafel, who joined Target in 1979 as a merchandise trainee, was named president in 1999. He took the reins as CEO in May 2008, just as the country’s economy was plunging. The state of the economy left Steinhafel undaunted. He just kept planning for the future.

“After a tough start during the middle of a recession, Steinhafel has the company on a very solid footing again,” Neil Stern, senior partner at Chicago-based McMillanDoolittle, told SN.

Underscoring that comment, Stern enumerated what he sees as some of Steinhafel’s most important achievements.

“Through Steinhafel’s leadership,” Stern said, “Target is very much back on target with a number of existing and new initiatives such as the continued rollout of PFresh, which is allowing Target to compete more effectively on an everyday basis with the grocery channel; planned international expansion in the Canada market; continued use of the Red Card, which is driving consumer loyalty; [and] leveraging their fashion position through merchandise innovation.” Stern pointed to Shops at Target, an initiative that brings small retailers into the stores, as Target’s most recent innovation

In early 2011, Target acquired the leasehold interests in up to 220 sites operated by Zellers Inc. — 125 to 135 of those stores are set to open as Target stores next spring.

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