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Amazon has scared Target into a management shake-up, just like it did to Walmart

Target’s chief digital officer is out four months after his promotion.

Blue Nile CEO Jason Goldberger at Recode’s Code Commerce event
Jason Goldberger (r) at Code Commerce in May
Recode / Alex Ulreich
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

In May, Target Chief Digital Officer Jason Goldberger was seated on a stage at Recode’s inaugural Code Commerce event talking about his promotion that had been announced that day. But just four months later, Target has eliminated Goldberger’s job and split his duties between two other executives.

In a statement, Target CEO Brian Cornell tried explaining the move with a buzzword gumbo of “accountability,” “speed up decision making,” “new direction” and “advance our efforts.”

What the shake-up really comes down to, though, is simple: A panicked decision driven consciously or unconsciously by the realization that nothing Target has done has slowed Amazon from eating up more and more market share in North America. This has meant both decelerating growth in e-commerce sales in recent quarters for Target — though still above the industry average — as well as lower sales in stores.

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That pattern should look familiar. It follows a panicked giant bet by Walmart in its $3.3 billion acquisition of and its CEO Marc Lore, who replaced Walmart e-commerce head Neil Ashe after the acquisition. That move stems from a similar place as Target’s: An inability to out-innovate Amazon, whether by turning stores into a real advantage rather than legacy baggage or by other means.

Goldberger spent nearly four years at Target after stops at Gilt and online furniture seller Hayneedle. He worked at Amazon for about eight years earlier in his career.

Target’s huge digital challenge will now lie with new Chief Information Officer Mike McNamara. He was hired by Cornell in 2015 after 17 years at the British grocer Tesco.

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