From her first days at Target as an assistant buyer, Jill Sando has built a reputation across retail as one of the industry’s most skilled merchants. Known for having a discerning eye for trends while anticipating the needs of the retailer’s shoppers, Sando has risen steadily through Target’s hierarchy holding various leadership positions in merchandising, planning, product design and development.
As the 2022 Top Women In Store Brand honoree in the Marketing and Merchandising category, Sando and Target continue to build off the retailer’s long history of developing unique private label products sold under various own brands as well as teaming with well-known designers for exclusive products.
“Design has always been in our DNA and it’s highly valued throughout the organization,” Sando told Store Brands. “You see this influence in our work with our owned brands and in how we work with national brands and our talented design partners. We are constantly evolving in this space to surprise and delight our guests.”
Sando credits Target’s success in private label to its world class owned-brand design, sourcing and management capabilities with teams at its headquarters and around the world working closely with vendor partners to deliver products.
In recent years, Target has continued to build on its long-standing reputation with the launch of several high-profile private label brands including the Kindfull line of dog and cat food in 2021. Additionally, she has also fostered relationships with designers and brands including Christian Robinson, LEGO and Tabitha Brown as part of an effort to bring exclusive products to her shoppers.
Among the private label brands that standout to Sando are Cat & Jack and Hearth & Hand with Magnolia.
“Cat & Jack is one of our first owned brands when we set out to reimagine our assortment several years ago, and it’s been incredibly successful. It was built on core values and created with a distinct personality.”
She continued, “The second one that stands out is Hearth & Hand with Magnolia. We saw an opportunity in the modern farmhouse aesthetic and thought that Chip and Joanna Gaines would be perfect partners to create this brand with us. I remember our very first meeting and how we talked about our dreams, and seeing the guest love what this brand has generated has been a real highlight,” she said.
In an industry that sees continual change and executives moving from company to company, Sando is also unique in that she has remained at one retailer for more than a quarter-century.
“I’ve stayed with Target for 25 years because of the people and the work we do together every day to deliver joy to our guests,” she said. This is a team that leads with big minds and big hearts. That was true when I started at Target in 1997 and it remains so today. I learn so much from a team that has come to Target to discover, innovate, and deliver programs and products that make people happy. It has been a gift and I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.”
As Sando continues her career at Target, she also serves as inspiration to future generations of women entering retail.
Her advice is simple. “Lean into your superpowers. I truly believe you are successful when you are happy, and you are happy when you are being true to yourself,” she said. “I went through phases where I compared myself to others, and focused on my deficiencies. When I let go of that, and leaned into my strengths, I started having more fun, developed stronger connections with my colleagues, and was given additional opportunities to grow and learn.