Talkstory with Bryan Berg, Target Corp., Senior Vice President, Region 1
Question: How does big-box retailer Target enter a new market? Answer: Very carefully. Last January, more than a year before they plan to to open new stores in Salt Lake and Kapolei, a Target Corp. advance team was in Honolulu to attend the locations’ ground breaking and to bone up on Hawaiian culture and Island traditions. Bryan Berg shared his thoughts on why it is good business to respect and connect with local communities and why Target representatives now bring a box of malasadas when they visit an Island business.
Q: Tell me about your malasada strategy. Why was it important to adopt this Island-style ice-breaker?
A: We have wanted to come to Hawaii for a number of years. Getting here early wasn’t as important as doing it the right way. We want to make sure that we are respectful of the culture and traditions of the Hawaiian people, and we are trying to learn from the experiences of others. I’m certainly not an expert, but some of the things that I found interesting about Hawaii were the aloha spirit, the gift giving and the relationship-based culture here. It’s very special.
Q: Target’s arrival is one of the most highly anticipated in the Islands’ retailing world. To paraphrase Renee Zellweger in Jerry Maguire, “You had us at hello.” Why is it so important to do all this groundwork when the public is waiting for you with open arms?
A: We have a tradition at Target of paying very close attention to the communities we serve. We not only want to understand them so that we can deliver a product that we can be proud of but also so that we can connect with the people we do business with. These are long-term, sustainable ventures. My dad used to be a carpenter, and he would always say: “Measure twice and cut once.” That’s what good carpenters do. That’s what good businesses do.
Q: So how you are entering the Hawaii market isn’t unique in this regard?
A: No. Many Target markets are unique, and they all have their own nuances. But what makes Hawaii particularly unique and special is the logistics of running a business in the Islands. Also, you have all these rich cultures and traditions and we’ve got to understand them and make sure that we make the appropriate accommodations and adjustments to the way you do business here.
Q: Besides taking along malasadas on appointments, what other adjustments did Target make?
A: Well, the blessings [ground-breaking blessings held last January] are very special events for us. [The blessing at Kapolei Commons was] the first land blessing that I will have been to in 25 years in the business, and, to my knowledge, it is the first that we’ve ever done. It’s unique and exciting from our perspective.
Q: But I understand that Target’s community involvement doesn’t stop at the grand opening?
A: We have a long tradition of donating 5 percent of our operating profits back into the communities we do business in. That now equates to $3 million a week in giving, more than $200 million of giving in 2007. We focus on education, the arts and social action. We’ll be sponsoring the Hawaii Book and Music Festival in May and we have plans for other events. We encourage volunteerism in our team members as well as look for projects that not only make a difference but ones in which our employees can give back as well. We’ve been doing that going back to our department store roots in the 1940s. I think it’s a big part of our success. I think our guests like to do business with people who are concerned about their neighbors and committed to making the community a better place to live.
Q: What are Target’s long-range plans for Hawaii?
A: We’ll be opening three stores in ’09, Kapolei and Salt Lake in March and Kona in July. We would clearly love to have more than three stores in the Islands and as soon as we can find the appropriate location, we will. There are a lot of issues to balance around that [including] traffic and congestion, and we have to make sure that we are embraced and wanted by those respective communities. I can’t say anymore, or I’ll give our real estate guys a heart attack.
Q: Are you going to sell malasadas at your Hawaii stores?
A: I don’t know. But I gotta tell you, I love them.