BUSINESS
01/13/2014 10:07 am ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

Target Data Breach 'A Real Punch In The Gut,' CEO Says

A data breach that exposed millions of customers' sensitive personal information was “a real punch in the gut,” for Target, the company's CEO Gregg Steinhafel told CNBC in an interview Monday.

After Target disclosed last month that credit and debit card information was taken from millions of customers during a data breach over the holiday shopping season, the retailer’s sales plummeted. The company announced last week that comparable same-store sales, an important metric for retail performance, dropped 2 to 6 percent in the weeks after it disclosed the breach.

“Clearly customers were confused, they were frustrated, they didn’t really understand,” Steinhafel said. “It was a pretty big impact.”

In the first several days following Target's announcement, its reputation among shoppers plunged to a level well below other, similar retailers, according to YouGov’s BrandIndex, a measurement of company reputation. That drop came during the final shopping days before Christmas, a crucial time for retailers.

Steinhafel told CNBC that sales have since rebounded to normal levels, but the company may not be out of the woods yet. The initial sales drop came after the retailer’s first disclosure -- that information for 40 million credit and debit card accounts was taken in the breach. Since, Target disclosed that up to 70 million more customers were affected by the incident and may have had sensitive information like their names, mailing addresses and emails, taken.

It appears Target isn’t the only retailer falling victim to security breaches, though. Neiman Marcus confirmed Saturday that its network was breached over the holiday shopping season, too. At least three other well-known retailers were victim to similar attacks, according to Reuters.

ALSO ON HUFFPOST:

PHOTO GALLERIES
Hottest Retailers

CONVERSATIONS