ORLANDO, Fla. — Nothing like a field trip for a little competitive insight.
Roughly 70 vendor and retail executives attending the International Mass Retail Association’s annual three-day convention piled into buses Sunday in order to tour a SuperTarget here. The 196,000-square-foot store, which opened in March, is one of the Minneapolis-based retailer’s newest formats, about 20,000 square feet larger than the average supercenter.
Although the size may not be replicated in every location, the basic layout has been the “rubber stamp to roll out everything since,” one manager said.
Among the insights shared by the 10 Target managers who led visitors around the meticulous store: the lingerie department is the size of an average Victoria’s Secret store (about 4,500 square feet), softlines account for 25 percent of the superstore’s revenues (30 percent in traditional Targets) and the Orlando market is the retailer’s second-biggest national market behind Texas. Nine more supercenters are planned in Seminole County in addition to the existing six.
The company is also trying to loosen its reliance on plan-o-grams — weekly dispatches from corporate headquarters in Minneapolis that dictate everything from the number of ketchup bottles to display to when to mark down corduroy. Instead, it is experimenting with allowing ground-level managers to have input on assortment and pricing.
“Right now, in preparation for our entry into Washington, D.C., I’m surveying our competitors around there on pricing and assortment to see what I need to do to capture the customer,” said one regional manager.
The Orlando store, for example, breaks with Target’s norm by having a local distributor stock 24 feet of specialty foods for the Hispanic market.
Efforts to raise visit frequency — the corporate goal is two more visits per customer per year, or an additional four million visits this year, said an electronics manager — were evident throughout the store. Some vendors offered $20 gift cards “for your next visit,” free with the purchase of vacuum cleaners or other big-ticket items.
The layout also is designed around frequency, particularly getting general merchandise customers to become regular food shoppers.
In the Orlando store, for instance, replenishment items that are relatively pricy at drugstores (diapers, tooth whiteners, laundry detergent, sports bars and pet supplies) filled the aisle separating the grocery from general merchandise. Novelty pet gear, for impulse purchasing, is one of the hottest categories in the store, said one Target tour guide.
“I sold out of a whole endcap [display] of Halloween pet costumes in five days,” he noted. “People are buying for their pets like they’re members of the family.” At the holiday, there will be six endcaps of Christmas stockings for dogs.
On the other side of this high-frequency aisle, food tasters proffering shot-glass-sized offerings of vanilla Starbucks frappes hoped to lure customers into grocery. The store also had a mini “food court,” sans tables, with Einstein bagel and Krispy Kreme kiosks, Cheesecake Factory baked goods and 24 feet of Jelly Belly gourmet jelly beans.
Yet even with tantalizing aromas in the air and high-demand items placed along boundaries, some observers privately said Target still has a way to go to get its traditional customers to shop the whole store.
“Wal-Mart does a better job of it with their power aisle,” said one supplier who asked for anonymity. “They’ll put out a stack of $6 blankets right next to a bargain on food. They don’t mind mixing it up.”
Target, however, continues to excel in finding attractive and clutter-free ways to display goods.
A recent move to take costume jewelry and sunglasses off traditional carousel displays and put them on walls by brand “has opened up the department and given us a nice boost in sales,” said one softlines manager. Starting with holiday, the majority of watches will be self-serve to encourage and streamline purchases.
Other successes: sports bras, priced $7.99 to $14.99. The company has tripled its category presentation from four to 12 feet, said the softlines manager. Although the Swell housewares range is reportedly selling slightly below plan, the brand’s colorful and preppy sleepwear, intimates and yoga outfits are exceeding expectations. “It has been a key differentiator for this department,” said the softlines manager.
In addition to its department size, Target is taking other plays from lingerie powerhouse Victoria’s Secret, developing a private label take on the Body by Victoria’s Secret seamless, molded-cup franchise and even offering fashion pieces cued off the pink-and-black scheme Victoria’s Secret advertised heavily last spring.
In the store’s 60,000 square feet devoted to apparel, Cherokee reigns as the biggest brand by volume, according to the softlines manager. The executive touted the return of Merona in her store, a contemporary careerwear range temporarily disbanded when the company experimented with Meg Allen by Liz Claiborne.
And although the south Florida day was steamy enough to evaporate snowflakes, much less melt them “on your nose and eyelashes,” a manager said the company will soon be featuring Rod Stewart rasping the Julie Andrews classic “My Favorite Things” in its holiday television campaign.