Can Target assure customers they’ll be safe shopping for the holidays?

Photo: Target
Oct 23, 2020

Target is looking to make it easier and safer to shop this holiday season, even as cases of the novel coronavirus continue to climb in most of the U.S. where it has stores.

The retailer is putting in place a host of safety measures for the holiday season to keep traffic flowing inside and outside of its stores while allowing shoppers to shop and associates to work without fear of falling ill.

The new measures, added to others already in place, like a requirement to wear masks, include contactless self-checkout, the ability for customers to reserve a place in line outside of stores and additional parking/pickup spots in its lots for Drive Up service. The retailer’s various same-day delivery (Shipt) and pickup services (in-store and curbside) are central to its plans.

“Year over year, the investments we’ve made in our business and team have made Target the easiest place to shop in America. As we’ve navigated the pandemic, that focus has evolved to ensure we’re also creating the safest place for our guests to shop,” said Target CEO Brian Cornell in a statement. “As we approach the holidays, guests can feel confident in choosing Target — a safe experience, incredible value, and a differentiated assortment that will help them celebrate the joy of the season.”

The retailer plans to enforce capacity limits and social distancing measures in its stores across the U.S. Guests (customers in Target parlance) can visit to see if a queue is forming outside their local store and reserve a spot in line. Target will text customers when it is their turn to enter.

Target’s customers will now be able to use the Wallet feature in the chain’s mobile app to avoid having to use a store or roaming associates’ scanners to ring up and pay for their purchases. The retailer’s Wallet includes consumers’ Redcard payment information, Target Circle offers, weekly ad coupons and gift cards in a single place. Target plans to add more associates around its stores with MyCheckout devices to enable customers to avoid checking out at the front-end altogether.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is Target moving closer to realizing CEO Brian Cornell’s boast that the chain is the easiest place to shop in the U.S.? How important will its enhanced safety measures be to its sales performance, and where do you see further room for improvement?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"These sound like great moves and they are clearly trying to stay ahead of the changing lifestyles due to the pandemic."
"Target could teach the masterclass in agility and adaptation in a crisis based on their performance during the pandemic."
"All of Target’s efforts could be undone by irrational customers."

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14 Comments on "Can Target assure customers they’ll be safe shopping for the holidays?"

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Mark Ryski

Yes, and that’s despite all the headwinds created by the pandemic. I think Cornell and his team are spot on to be leading with safety as we move into the busiest shopping season of the year. The pandemic will no doubt dog retailers throughout the season and some shoppers will gravitate to retailers that prioritize safety. Great move Target – I expect that they will be a star of the holiday season.

Chris Buecker

Nobody will be able to assure that. But what other choice do (responsible) retailers have than to implement as many precautionary measures as possible to reduce the risk of customers getting infected? The sad reality is that people will try to stay away from physical stores as much as possible. If they really have to shop, then (at least) their basket will be considerably bigger.

Joel Rubinson

These sound like great moves and they are clearly trying to stay ahead of the changing lifestyles due to the pandemic. I think these will become permanent, just like terrorism led to check-in kiosks in airports that have become permanent. When a change is adding more convenience and simplicity even for normal times, it will become permanent.

Gary Sankary

Target had been reporting outstanding results during the pandemic. I have to believe that at least part of this has to do with their ongoing commitment to guest and team member safety. They were early adopters of mandatory mask rules and nightly deep cleaning. They were early with touch free options. They really beefed up their curbside capabilities, and they’re one of the few grocers that I know of who does not require an appointment to pick up an order.

We’ve all be wondering how retailers are going to balance customer safety with holiday promotions and traffic. Target has a plan and they’ve been early to communicate it. This is spot on for Target’s brand and message during these times. These new measures make a ton of sense and I believe we will continue to see Target rewarded by their guests.

Rich Kizer

I have got to say I am proud of (and certainly not surprised by) Target’s efforts for customer safety and of CEO Brian Cornell’s boast that the chain is the easiest place to shop in the U.S, which shows a corporate position of becoming number one in their crowded market. And the icing on the cake? They are serious about customer health and they show it. It’s not just a single slogan sign on the door to wear masks as required, but it demonstrates and communicates to the customers how seriously they take their role of safety for everyone.

Lisa Goller

Target’s unique bundle of omnichannel best practices will help consumers shop with greater ease. Crowd control, checkout options and centralized wallet data enhance safety, speed and service.

These measures matter, as many consumers are wary of visiting the physical stores that distinguish Target’s customer experience. Making in-store shoppers feel safe and valued will help Target maximize its sales of eye-catching merchandise that inspires them to spend more.

Gene Detroyer

BRAVO for Target. They are being serious about health and safety.

The big question however is if the shoppers will be equally concerned and aware.

Dick Seesel

Target has led the way since early in the pandemic to make shopping safer and easier for its customers. (Or, in Targetspeak, guests.) It leveraged what it already knew about BOPIS and converted it to a robust curbside operation.

The one question mark — for Target and other national retailers with “mask required” policies — is their ability to enforce those policies. (Here in Wisconsin, I wouldn’t consider shopping in a store where some customers are disregarding the state mask mandates.) Without putting its own associates in a confrontational position, can Target be 100 percent assured of a safe environment inside its doors?

Ricardo Belmar
Target could teach the masterclass in agility and adaptation in a crisis based on their performance during the pandemic. Their stated improvements in the name of safety are also making Target easier to shop during the holiday season when many consumers are worried about crowded stores. I am most pleased to see they are adding a mobile checkout capability and equipping store associates with the ability to check out a customer anywhere. Every opportunity to avoid a checkout line or a delay in shopping with Target is addressed now whether you are shopping in-store, via the web or mobile app, and using mobile checkout, curbside or in-store pickup. I applaud Target’s ability to lead the way during a difficult retail moment. Of course all of this is theoretical, and the real success story will come from execution. Target will need to ensure store associates are well trained and able to support customers purchasing while managing store capacity and enforcing mask policies. It is no easy task for this holiday shopping season! Especially if we assume… Read more »
Brandon Rael

The pandemic has disrupted all industries, and especially the retail and service segments have had to adjust their operating models to the changing everyday new normal. Retailers, such as Target, have been open and transparent.

Target has already deployed a customer-centric business transformation around the experience across all shopping channels. Target’s in-store investments in widening their aisles, curating their assortments, and driving private label are all commendable. This has led to the store being near the top of the list of the easiest places to shop.

However we live in a COVID-19 pandemic world, where social distancing, masks, and the safety and the security of the store associates and consumers are a top priority. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no way to 100 percent guarantee everyone’s safety and security from the virus.

Ryan Mathews

Gene Destroyer has nailed it. All of Target’s efforts could be undone by irrational customers. I live in Michigan where the “pandemic is a hoax” crowd has knocked down an almost 80-year-old cancer patient, spit on employees, gotten into fist, knife, and gun fights over masks, and other assorted heinous behavior. Certainly for the majority of shoppers Target is doing what it can, and more than most. Does it make it the “easiest place to shop in the U.S.?” I doubt it, but it’s a good start in the right direction. As we move from spike to spike though these extraordinary sanitation procedures lose their differentiation as areas go back down to mandated lockdowns and restrictions. If everyone has to do something you don’t necessarily get points for volunteering to do it first.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

Target is making some smart moves. As a store with great assortment making one-stop shopping possible and offering multiple ways to purchase and pickup, Target is certainly trying to make customers feel safe. In addition, creating lanes and specific times for pickup is a good idea. Following from some of the experimentation that has been done, offering alternative ways for self checkout at various points throughout the store makes a lot of sense. Making changes to make customers feel more comfortable about shopping and making the process more convenient are smart moves.

Matthew Pavich

No retailer can fully assure customers that they will be safe during the pandemic. They can, however, set themselves apart by offering a superior and convenient shopping strategy with a focus on “guest” and team member safety. As a Target alumnus whose son is working the frontlines at Target, I can say with confidence that Target has been ahead of the pack in taking care of their team members in this unprecedented time with higher pay, more flexibility in extended leave and providing the materials needed to be safe while working a shift. These new initiatives demonstrate a further commitment to making Target not just safer but more convenient for guests as the holidays approach.

I was able to try Target’s curbside delivery last month, when shopping for a Razor scooter for my daughter’s birthday. Here’s my experience: 1. There was plenty of parking spots dedicated to the service, and it was very intuitive to just park in a spot and send a note to the store to notify them of my arrival. 2. As soon as I parked however, there was some confusion because I received a reply note to indicate that I’ve already received my order (which I obviously haven’t) thanking me for placing my order! 3. I waited for about 5 more minutes and looked at the other people parked in the zone, and they didn’t seem to be getting their packages either, so I gave Target the benefit of the doubt. Note that I was tempted to just call Customer Service to let them know that I have not received my package. 4. After another 10 minutes or so, an associate did come out and started asking each driver which items were theirs. He was very… Read more »
"These sound like great moves and they are clearly trying to stay ahead of the changing lifestyles due to the pandemic."
"Target could teach the masterclass in agility and adaptation in a crisis based on their performance during the pandemic."
"All of Target’s efforts could be undone by irrational customers."

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