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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Reactions to the Target Store Experience

If you remember from Target Grand Opening Riverdale, NJ, my friends and I eagerly awaited the opening on our new Target.

We haven't been disappointed!

Jill went to Target with her 2 year old -Devin- in tow. She says: "FABULOUS store. VERY friendly sales people who are surprisingly knowledgeable! I asked where I could find some packs of wash cloths for the girls and a salesperson showed me 2 different locations for them (baby isle and towel section). Obviously the shelves were packed with goods for their first day. It was so great to find clothes for Sydney [her 6 year old] in her size as I never get lucky with cute stuff!

I checked out the “family bathroom” and it was clean and large. I painfully passed by the home good section which happens to be amazing at most Targets as Devin was getting a little cranky. I plan on returning when I can browse in peace and harmony.

Parking is going to be a nightmare, though. I love the store and can’t wait to get back in!"

Dina says: "I enjoyed my shopping experience at Target-not a fan of the new carts… Bumped into many a fixture. Great layout; clean, inviting-tons of great merchandise…dressing rooms very large; like the family dressing room…smells from snack bar and Starbucks pleasant. Cashiers and workers very friendly and quick…. A+."

My other friend, Lisa Contreras, has a unique take on retail establishments. You may remember her from Bloomingdales Bathroom Makeover. Her expertise is about designing retail spaces, and I treasure her perspective on the Target Store Experience.

Lisa says: "I often feel that the Target Corporation has a disconnect between their advertising, merchandising and store design. The excitement of their commercials and their ability to rethink the advertising of a "discount" store has truly revolutionized the market... In fact, many commercials look like theirs now, even Macy's. I have often wished that their stores conveyed the excitement, uniqueness, and brand identity that their commercials do. With this skepticism, I visited Target, Riverdale tonight on my way home from work.

As I drove north on Rte 23, I was excited. I exited onto the causeway that connected Rte. 23 to the store.

The parking lot was well marked and I could feel the Target brand beginning. I liked the building. Usually, the buildings are boring blocks of concrete; here, the architect used glass penetrations to see into the store, to give the customer a glimpse of what was to come... Here, the signage became the brand. The big round red balustrade balls reinforce the Target brand, as well as a large open cut out painted red to the right of the door. I had trouble determining the "in"... I think it should have been on the right. Instead, it was on the left with only a small sign saying "in".

As I entered the store, I was pleasantly surprised. The Target brand had made its way into the store. Large red graphics with the signature bullseye in neon decorated the perimeters of the store. Circulation was clean and straightforward. Toilets to the left as you entered, with customer service. Merchandise throughout the store was neat and nicely organized (it really was the first day!).

I was interested in how Target continued their brand identity throughout the customer enhancement opportunities. The fitting area is communal - men, women, kids - with a central desk where I was greeted by a friendly associate. I was happy to see that Target had implemented the "family fitting room" with larger rooms for the entire family...great idea. The individual fitting rooms were also equipped with a red mushroom shaped stool and carpeting that hinted at the Target brand. A large mirror and many "hooks" made it easy to try things on.

The toilets were simple and straight forward and, of course, clean as it was the first day. There was a family toilet, reflecting the needs of the Target Customer.

I walked the store and found the plan to be typical of that of other stores. As always, the merchandise raises the bar for discounters. I can never leave a Target without buying something. Today, I bought a herringbone brown wool skirt with a faux suede waist, a grey "wool" shirt dress with hidden accents of lime green, a gift card for a birthday party, and a cool Halloween bucket.

I wish, though, that Target would experiment more with new ideas for the store interior. There are still racks upon racks of merchandise.... I wish they would rethink their display ideas in the same way they have excited the public with their commercials. Maybe that isn't what they wish to convey? Maybe what they do now adequately speaks to all segments of the population? "Big Box" retail seems to have become the norm in the US lately and I wonder what the future evolution of this type of store will be: accessible to everyone, with just enough "savvy" to excite, without intimidating, but still able to sell toilet paper."

As you think through these various reactions - from coveted target shopper to discerning professional - keep in mind that the subtle nuances of the professional are ones that the shopper may not verbalize, but still reacts to.

I've always enjoyed how Target stores exude the Target brand, in a way not too dissimilar from The Apple Store and the Apple brand. This store doesn't disappoint. In fact, it's the best Target brand execution I've seen so far.

Given this intimate exposure to Target in my backyard, I've been paying more attention to Target's presence online. In Target Grand Opening Riverdale, NJ, I was disappointed in my poor search results. Well, did you know that Target has created a Facebook group, strongly branded as you can see in the image above, with close to 15,000 members? [Starbucks has too many to count with over 100,000 members; those look to be user created. Apple has an Apple Students site with 400,000 members.]

I learned recently that Target has a strong direct marketing heritage, having hired many former Fingerhut marketers. That explains the focus on traditional direct marketing activities to drive sales, and exploration with new venues like Facebook to promote contests. It will be interesting to see if Target's interactive marketing groups integrate efforts with corporate communications, advertising and local store activities in the future.

In the meantime, the Riverdale, NJ Target retail store experience does not disappoint, with great attention having been placed on reinforcing the iconic Target brand at every opportunity starting with the large bulls eye signaling the turn off to drivers, to parking lot symbology, to numerous examples in store. Are you as consistent with your store experience?

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