Will Target’s New Approach Connect With Young Families?

Discussion
Aug 01, 2013

Target has been tinkering with using service in key areas within its stores to differentiate its offerings and drive sales. In consumer electronics, it partnered with Best Buy’s Geek Squad. More recently, it has used its own trained staff to test a Beauty Concierge program.

Respondents to a June poll on RetailWire were largely positive (65 percent) that Target’s test of beauty consultants would eventually lead to a chain-wide rollout of the Concierge concept. Now comes word that the discount chain is testing a baby section with trained staff at 10 stores in Illinois.

"We kind of are a store for families, and particularly young families, and we just think there is further opportunity to capture a larger share of their wallet," Trish Adams, senior vice president of merchandising at Target, told Reuters.

The test locations in Illinois carry the same items as other Targets with the one difference being staff on hand to assist shoppers. The idea is to give Target’s baby departments more of a specialty shop feel. The chain expects to make changes as it learns from the test.

Will providing trained staff in baby departments help Target capture a larger share of expenditures made by families with young children? Will the staff be able to overcome Target having a smaller selection of products than typically found in specialty shop competitors?

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12 Comments on "Will Target’s New Approach Connect With Young Families?"


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Steve Montgomery
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

Having a qualified, trained staff available will definitely increase sales. The question is, with its more limited selection than specialty stores, can Target generate enough sales to make it pay?

As the article notes, young parents are spending more on their baby needs than before, but not everyone is willing to move to a price point higher than Target’s. I expect the feedback from some customers to be that they want to look at a broader selection that what most Targets currently carry before making a purchase.

It would be interesting to know if Target is testing this where they are located near a Babies “R” Us or similar specialty retailer, and in locations where they are not. They may find the tactic works in locations where the nearest baby specialty shop is not close by.

Dick Seesel
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

A ten-store test is a relatively risk-free way for Target to study the economics and payback of the extra expense vs. incremental sales. But the store needs to be careful about expanding full service areas too fast or too broadly, if it is also committed to competitive pricing and cost management. (And the Geek Squad test was ended, as RetailWire reported a few months ago.) Areas like cosmetics seem to demand at least some assisted self-selection, if Target plans to gain share vs. competitors like Sephora and the big drug chains.

David Livingston
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

I don’t see this going anywhere. How hard is it to buy diapers and baby food? Can’t put the crib together? That’s what grandpa, aka me, is for. “Trained staff” will probably have a very loose definition. A twenty minute seminar in the break room could be the definition of training. Testing concept is a good idea. But keep in mind, Target is just small step up in class from Walmart, and is not Neiman Marcus.

Dave Wendland
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

Putting feet in the aisles is quite a feat for Target. I would agree with my BrainTrust colleagues that sales should be positively impacted if the level of service offered by shopping advisors is meaningful. That said, the bottom line will dictate whether the idea is sustainable … and frankly, I’m not sure this will translate across certain categories as it does for something like cosmetics.

Susan Viamari
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

On face value, this program seems similar to what we are seeing in drug chains, with expanded pharmacy service and pharmacists that provide guidance on OTC and other health-related purchases. Of course, the baby aisle is nowhere near as complex as healthcare. Still, it’s about making that personal connection with shoppers and showing them that the store is truly listening to their needs and wants. Whether the selection is broad enough is less an issue than whether the selection is tailored enough to the needs of the consumer base in any given market/store. Assortment doesn’t have to be deep, but it definitely has to be relevant.

Ian Percy
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

Most purchases are mindless events; David is right about that. BUT when you really do need wise and informed advice, having someone who actually knows what they’re doing there to help you would be amazing. Your baby needs to sleep on a slight incline so which crib is best for that? Your dog needs a low salt food but the bag descriptions are hard to understand—so which one?

And Target doesn’t need to cover the whole range of product alternatives, just enough to cover the major differentiators. In fact, I suggest they begin with just four sections: Infants, Seniors, Pets and Technology.

Heck, in most stores it’s almost impossible to find someone just to point you to the rest rooms.

Liz Crawford
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

Given that many new mothers are Millennials, I am not convinced that they want personal service. Instead, this generational cohort tends to seek information for decision-making in digital formats.

If it were me, I’d put together a great Baby Target App, geared just for new mothers shopping online and in-aisle.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

I went back and read my comments on the “Beauty Consultants” topic, and I was even more unenthusiastic than I had remembered. Not much different here; the questions are multiple: will the training really be meaningful, or will it be—as David suggests—little more than being told how to say “we don’t carry that here” in 5 languages? In slack times, will staff stay in the department—perhaps playing with the rattles—or will the manager tell them “go over and help in housewares”? Is this 100% Target-funded or are the manufacturers kicking in something too?

Put it all together, and I guess my answer to the latter question is: no, they shall not overcome.

Brian Numainville
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

Interesting idea. Many new parents are overwhelmed (especially first time ones) and not sure what to do with many different aspects of parenting and this could be helpful. But at the same time, will parents expect/trust this information from a retailer, will they believe that the staff is truly “trained” and to what level of complexity will the service be offered?

vic gallese
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

It’s all about execution! Right People, Right Place, Right Time, Right Behaviors = Improved Conversion. Biggest question is “there enough traffic in the baby department to justify (take that as pay for) the increased staffing?” I am sure some of their “A” baby stores could provide an ROI during peak hours. Cosmetics, shoes, women’s fashion, etc., seem to make better sense to me as pilot situations. It should be interesting to watch and learn.

Kenneth Leung
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

I think a baby department would be a good place for Target to try adding personal service because it is a human/emotional experience more than let’s say, buying a movie. If the trained staff can achieve empathy with the shopper, I think they can overcome the smaller selection. The question is, what is the level of training given to the associates? It has to be more than the manufacturer’s instructions and how to assemble the stroller.

Brian Kelly
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

Crucial life stage for considering a new set of stores. Not sure if this is right tactic, but it is the right strategy. It could be a more hands-on resource for customer insights. Agree with scale doubts. Perhaps they’ve organized vendors ala Motorsports Program.

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