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Target Layoffs Hit Home

01/28/2014

target-issuesTarget Corp. laid off 475 people last Wednesday and eliminated 700 open positions as it struggles with disappointing sales, a lack of sales from Canadian shoppers and the aftershocks of its massive data breach.

The layoffs follow a series of troubles at the discount giant, which had stumbled even before hackers stole private customer data on up to 110 million holiday shoppers (myself included). Many retailers struggled over the holidays, but Target faced unique troubles. Three months ago, the company warned it was unable to meet its earlier promise of robust growth. Along with its U.S. struggles, its expansion last year into Canada — the largest in Target history — has been troubled and costly.

The company had hoped for a blockbuster holiday season, one that showcased its splashy new digital tools. Instead, Target was victimized by the massive data breach that angered customers, wounded its image, exposed it to immense costs, hurt its stock price and sent shoppers elsewhere.

The 19-day security breach hit Target at the worst possible moment — between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when stores are busiest. News of the breach became public one week before the last-minute Christmas rush.

The long-rumored layoffs began Wednesday morning, when employees were summoned to 15-minute private meetings. Some of the eliminated jobs will be taken over by contractors or sent overseas, including to India, employees said.

One of the layoff casualties is my brother-in-law. He is moderately developmentally disabled and has worked at Target headquarters his entire adult life. His job was to distribute mail and documents throughout the company’s offices. Target has been good to him – giving him an income and benefits, but perhaps most importantly, life skills and independence. It’s difficult to understand how his job can be outsourced to India.

Many of us have lived through or participated in downsizing, restructuring, layoffs or shut downs. It’s not easy. It never seems to make sense. Target has enjoyed years of success. It’s executive team has made millions in the process. Too bad the mistakes made by those at the top have to be born by the likes of my brother-in-law.

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