Target CMO Michael Francis Leaves for J.C. Penney

A Target spokeswoman said that the departure of Michael Francis, who was leading the retailer's expansion into Canada, will have no bearing on its plans to open stores north of U.S. borders; the company hasn't yet determined an approach for finding Francis' replacement.

Target Corporation's chief marketing officer (CMO) abruptly left his post to join J.C. Penney Company, Inc.

Minneapolis-based Target announced Monday morning that Michael R. Francis, who had been selected to lead the retailer's expansion into Canada, “has elected to leave the company” but didn't provide further details in a news release.

Plano, Texas-based J.C. Penney said a short time later that Francis, 48, will join the department store retailer as its president, effective October 4.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for me to get back to department store retail,” Francis said in a J.C. Penney-issued news release. “I began my career working on the sales floor of the State Street Marshall Field's in Chicago. It was there where my passion for retail began and my understanding of the power and potential of the department store was formed.”

In his new position, Francis will be responsible for all merchandising, marketing, planning and allocation, and product development and sourcing functions “at a time when the company is focusing on redefining the department store,” J.C. Penney said.

After becoming an executive trainee with the Marshall Field's store in Chicago in 1986, Francis joined Target predecessor Dayton-Hudson Corporation in 1990 when it acquired Marshall Field's. He held a variety of senior marketing positions in the department store division of Dayton's and was promoted to executive vice president of Target Corporation in 2001 and to CMO in August 2008.

In his new role, Francis will work with Ron Johnson, who will become J.C. Penney's CEO on November 1. Johnson most recently served as senior vice president of retail at Apple, Inc.-but prior to that, he spent 15 years in merchandising positions at Target.

Before leaving Target, Francis was overseeing its first expansion of retail stores beyond U.S. borders. The retailer intends to open 125 to 135 stores in Canada beginning in 2013.

Target spokeswoman Amy Reilly told Twin Cities Business on Monday afternoon that Francis' departure will have no bearing whatsoever on the expansion plans. She said that Target Canada President Tony Fisher and approximately 42 others moved to Toronto over the summer to work on expansion efforts; the company hopes to have 100 Canada employees by year's end and several hundred early next year.

Reilly also said that a new CMO has not been named-and in terms of finding a replacement, “we haven't determined our approach yet.” She added that “we have a strong marketing team and significant strength within the marketing organization.”

Target serves customers at 1,762 stores and on its Web site. It is Minnesota's second-largest public company based on revenue, which totaled $67.4 billion in its most recently completed fiscal year.