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NEW YORK — Target’s partnership with Story, a Chelsea retailer that reinvents itself every four to eight weeks, could lead to new ideas for merchandising that the mass retailer could apply to its stores, including Target Express and CityTarget units.

This story first appeared in the November 5, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Even as it looks for new concepts at retail, Target continues to refine its store portfolio. The company on Tuesday said it will close 11 locations as of Feb. 1. The stores are in Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota and Texas. “The decision to close a Target store is only made after careful consideration of the long-term financial performance of a particular location,” the company said, adding that eligible staffers will be offered the option to transfer to other Target stores. Those who choose not to transfer will be offered a separation package.

The improbable hookup between Target and Story began in September when Target chairman and chief executive officer Brian Cornell visited Story during a tour of interesting New York specialty stores. Owner Rachel Shechtman happened to be on hand and described Story’s next incarnation, Home for the Holidays. Cornell, who took Target’s reins in August, is known for moving quickly. Shechtman was invited to the discounter’s Minneapolis headquarters to look over holiday products and select some for her store. While she had already chosen 60 percent of her inventory, Shechtman agreed “because Target is my favorite store.”

Shechtman picked 300 Target products to sell at Story, including men’s, women’s and children’s wear, home, beauty and gift items.

“What excites me about this is that a typical Target store is organized by category,” said Julie Guggemos, senior vice president of product design and development. “Here, it’s about discovery. We’re learning from this and could use it at CityTarget or Target Express.

“We opened a space in Chelsea that we want to use for experimentation,” Guggemos said. “I think we could put a concept like this in a [full-line] store, especially in home and apparel. Target has an opportunity to try it and see how it resonates with the customer. We have something in the works for home.” Target is testing a new concept in one store and could roll it out if it succeeds.

Shechtman, who was a consultant to Gilt, Gap and AOL, treats Story as if it were a lifestyle magazine, viewing products with an editor’s critical eye. The holiday assortment is accompanied by an online gift guide.

Not only does Story’s merchandise change with each new theme, the store itself is remodeled. From wall coverings and fixtures to floor plan and actual floors, Story evokes whatever narrative Shechtman is putting forward. For Home for the Holidays, the store looks like a modern mountain chalet with wood-beamed ceilings, a fireplace and chandelier made from antlers. The 2,000-square-foot space is divided into “rooms.” The living room table represents Shechtman’s ethos of mashing up price points and brands. Picture frames, desert plates and polar bear-shaped salt-and-pepper shakers designed by Nate Berkus, Target’s resident interior decor guru, coexist with Diptyque candles. Sweaters, chambray shirts, throws and blankets from Target’s exclusive Toms collaboration are featured at Story before their launch at Target stores and target.com on Nov. 16.

In the room devoted to men’s products, an Apolis men’s sweater for $324.99 hangs next to a Target sweater priced at $32.99. Hand-stitched work boots, $500, are near baskets of Merona socks and Mossimo boxers from Target.

Prices for Target products range from 99 cents for ornaments to $79.99 for a duffle bag from the Faribault for Target collection made from 100 percent wool textiles at the family-owned company founded in 1865.

In the women’s area, a sheet of plexiglass over a fur-covered “bed” displays A Peace Treaty jewelry designed by Farah Malik, a Pakistani Muslim, and Dana Arbib, a Libyan Jew. The collection of gold-plated brass jewelry with turquoise and azurite malachite stones is $150 to $450. Arbib also designed an iPhone case for Target on sale at Story.

A bathtub turned into a table holds Beth Macri’s hidden-message necklaces. Astis suede gloves with fur trim and beading ($225) and Rafe scarves ($168) get tossed together with Target slippers and faux-fur scarves. “We’ll have the exclusive launch of Birchbox’s Conscious Commerce box,” Shechtman said, referring to the beauty and lifestyle subscription company.

Purple Cherokee puffer jackets with floral designs ($32.99) and matching tutus ($14.99) for girls occupy one wall. Boys’ corresponding puffers on the next wall hang alongside T-shirts with robot images and robot toys.

Cornell has acknowledged that Target lost some of its product mojo and image as a design innovator. The Story partnership can be seen as a throwback to 2006, when Target teamed up with Intuition, a Los Angeles boutique, to launch an exclusive line of Targèt Couture with cashmere sweaters for $330 and a diamond necklace for $3,100, based on the mass retailer’s bull’s-eye logo. At that time, Target was after the halo effect that an association with an upscale retailer could bring. The Story partnership could have a similar effect while providing the added benefit of learning some of Shechtman’s merchandising techniques.

“We’re really in a transformation,” said Guggemos, eyeing the store.

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