No Room for Indies at Target

Discussion
Mar 13, 2013

Target Corp. is shuttering its "The Shops at Target" experiment, which showcased exclusive goods from select independent boutique retailers within in-store shops.

The concept may come back at a later date, but Target currently wants to focus on collaborations with designers such as Missoni and Prabal Gurung, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

"At this time, we don’t have plans for a future ‘flight’ of the Shops at Target, but we do have a number of collaborations planned for 2013 and beyond," Target spokeswoman Katie Boylan told the Trib.

In January 2012, a major media event in New York City heralded the arrival of "The Shops at Target." Marketing copy around the program touted how the "collections reflect each shop owner’s unique perspective, offering Target’s guests the opportunity to experience each shop’s distinct aesthetic simply by visiting their local Target store or Target.com."

Target’s first group of five boutiques opened in May and included The Candy Store of San Francisco, Miami-based luxury goods boutique The Webster, and Polka Dog Bakery in Boston. A fall group roll-out included men’s apparel retailer Odin and home-decor retailer The Curiosity Shoppe.

Ms. Boylan said the initiative is another example of how Target continues to experiment with designer partnerships, which began with architect Michael Graves in 1999 before moving onto deals with GO International, Liberty of London and others. Its recent partnership with Prabal Gurung sold out almost immediately and was said to have been the most successful since its alliance with Italian fashion house Missoni, which sold out in minutes in late 2011 and crashed Target’s website.

Although Target didn’t detail the reasons for the closure, analysts assumed the Shops had underperformed. The Trib article stated that its partnership with Neiman Marcus was also said to have come in below plan, with Target cutting prices by 70 percent. Under that partnership, more than 50 items from 24 American designers were for sale in both chains this holiday season.

Some analysts said the publicity coming from the partnership announcements was enough to merit the likely small investment. But others noted that designer-labeled, exclusive lines such as Missoni were bound to perform better than designer collaborations around Target-branded lines

Asked in a RetailWire poll in January 2012, an overwhelming 77 percent of respondents felt "The Shops at Target?" was very or somewhat likely to succeed.

Why do you think Target pulled the plug on its “Shops” experiment? Ideally, what would it take for independents to flourish by securing some space inside major chains?

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13 Comments on "No Room for Indies at Target"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

The store within a store was pioneered by Bloomingdale’s to great effect. Are customers demanding this with other retailers or is it just a gimmick? If Target’s out, it bodes even worse for JCP and Ron Johnson’s 100 stores-within-store concept.

Customers are not looking for even more choices to have to dig through to get a pair of jeans or a top—they expect the retailer to make a mix that is easy to understand and shop. I don’t believe store-within-a-store can successfully duplicate the boutique—at least at the mid-to-lower tier of retail. If so, Target would have run with it.

Lee Peterson
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

Seems like Target might’ve thought that Ron Johnson (JCP) had a really good idea so they thought they’d better get ahead of it and try it themselves. I’m not sure, but the timing of their decision to try shops and the announcement of JCP’s shop idea would lead you to believe that.

But obviously, in any case, it didn’t test well or the idea of getting ahead of JCP just doesn’t seem to matter any more. Either one could’ve put the kibosh on the idea.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

As one of the original naysayers, my feeling was that this concept might work at a department store, but that Target is not a department store, it’s a mass merchandiser. Granted, they are on the more upscale side of that food chain, but they are still a mass merchandiser. Shoppers aren’t looking to this channel to be an interesting/exciting/unique shopping experience, they’re looking for a good value (however they define value).

Steve Montgomery
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

Expectations meet reality. In this case, consumer expectations of a shopping experience at Target were not met by the reality of the shop concept. Was it the products, the price, the position of the shops within the store, or for some other reason? If Target knows, it is not sharing. The bottom line is, if it worked, Target would not be pulling the plug.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

You must know who you are and who your customer is. Shoppers go to Target because it is Target, not because of brands. Shoppers go to Bloomies because of the merchandise they carry. The brands.

The more “Department Store” the chain is, the better store-within-a-store works. It is DEPARTMENTS. The more “Mass Merchant” the store is, the less it will work. Target can pretend to be a department store, but the reality is that it is simply an upscale Walmart.

Katherine Walker
Guest
Katherine Walker
9 years 2 months ago

Target has been successful pioneering high-end designers at low-end pricing. They have created unheard of buzz around their collaborations. This strategy has been what has not only differentiated Target from its competitors, but also basically decimated them!

However, all the buzzing and collaboration in the world cannot substitute for bad product. Just because a handbag has an Oscar de la Renta label or a dress totes the Tracy Reese label doesn’t make it cute. It actually has to be cute! Target’s customers are stylish and savvy. They can’t be fooled. If Target wants to continue its high-flying success at designer collaborations, the product has to be good! I think where The Shops and the Neiman Marcus collaboration went wrong was on the product designs, quality and pricing!

Lisa Bradner
Guest
Lisa Bradner
9 years 2 months ago

In my experience as a shopper, I would attribute a lot of the failure to merchandising. I went into the store on multiple occasions looking for the shops of Target and struggled to find them. Instead of bringing them together, the shops were merchandised separately on end-caps and underwhelming in both their breadth and depth of product assortment. The Neiman Marcus stuff was (again, my opinion) dated and not very compelling design.

Not to discount any of the comments here, but if the merchandise isn’t appealing, nothing else is going to work.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

Is this something the customer wants? To browse and then to shop? It brings to mind the previews at the movies. In that case one gets to decide if the preview will attract them to see the movie. In this case, does the value of the space allocated meet the returns the company expects?

Arthur Rosenberg
Guest
Arthur Rosenberg
9 years 2 months ago

Target tested the concept and at least for now, has closed it down. Ron Johnson has consistently refused to test and his problems continue to self-generate, awaiting the next crisis or rumor.

Jeremy Frank
Guest
Jeremy Frank
9 years 2 months ago

Lisa is spot-on. The in-store experience did not match the advertising muscle Target put behind this concept.

When most people think “Boutique,” they think one-of-a-kind products for which they will pay a small premium. In reality, the “Boutique” concept Target rolled out was essentially fragmented, misplaced endcaps with cheap merchandise.

Wendy Sender
Guest
Wendy Sender
9 years 2 months ago

I never felt the program was implemented correctly. They should have set up a separate area within the store to showcase the assortments. Instead, they were spread throughout the store in different locations, and you could not get the full impact of the program.

In theory I think it was a great idea.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

“Although Target didn’t detail the reasons for the closure, analysts assumed the Shops had underperformed”

Uhmm, well, yeah…of course the real issue is WHY they underperformed. Was it the merchandise itself? How it was presented? I don’t know, but as others here have noted, there’s an inherent tension between the concept of a “boutique” and a several-hundred-stores-strong mass merchandiser; perhaps what Target needs is the impression of exclusivity, without the reality of it.

Brian Kelly
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

Change in leadership, Francis to Jones. Shops didn’t meet expectations in sales, profit or draw. NM (regrettably) was a disaster for TGT.

It’s almost an oxymoron, specialty mass. Even a quirky prestige brand ala Missoni has sufficient breath of appeal to deliver against expectations.

In a world of “curated” assortments; I was hoping. Alas as we like to say, retail ain’t for sissies.

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