BOSTON — Target is sweet on Baby Boomers.

This story first appeared in the November 17, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The retailer revealed on its third-quarter conference call last week it will launch two apparel lines aimed at the demographic — Linden Hill for women and Breakwater for men —in January.

Target has avidly courted the affluent and active 40-plus customer this year, launching Isaac Mizrahi casual sportswear and VF Corp.’s Blu Jeans by the Makers of Lee denim in the last six months.

To date, Mizrahi’s merchandise has been “a smashing success,” and the company said it is also “very pleased” with Blu Jeans, according to Target Corp. vice chairman Gerald Storch, singling out those properties as some of this year’s stronger launches during a question-and-answer session with analysts.

The Minneapolis-based retailer will also unveil a prototype store in March, with a floor remerchandised to create “worlds” of related goods.

A prominent “consumables world,” for instance, will mingle high-frequency household buys like beauty, health and paper goods together, said Target Stores president Gregg Steinhafel. Other new “worlds” include a toys-and-entertainment section for young families and a “baby world” that puts everything from formula to baby furniture together.

Although on the surface the new prototype design and the Baby Boomer apparel push seem unrelated, data gathered from Target’s guest relationship management, or GRM, programs drive both initiatives, said Storch.

As the retailer gets better at collecting and analyzing point-of-sale data, it is increasingly able to “identify our guests by name, address and transaction data,” he noted.

GRM research, he continued, “has led to our intensified focus on trip frequency, mom-and-baby guests, recent movers and zoomers — the affluent, aging Baby Boomers.”

The two new apparel brands, Linden Hill and Breakwater, are targeted squarely at zoomers, who Steinhafel said have a young spirit, an above-average household income and “a desire for a multifunctional wardrobe.”

Linden Hill will take styling cues from such demographic “benchmarks” as Eileen Fisher, J. Jill and Chico’s, said Steinhafel, while Breakwater references Perry Ellis and Tommy Bahama.

Pieces will retail for $10 to $30, slightly more than Target’s core Cherokee offering but in line with other flagship brands like Mossimo and Isaac Mizrahi.

Linden Hill’s focus on natural fibers like silk, linen and cotton echoes lines like Eileen Fischer, while the bid to provide looks that are casual but coordinated is reminiscent of Chico’s.

While the company didn’t offer revenue projections or any guidance on how widely the new lines will be rolled out, Davenport & Co. analyst David Campbell said Target doesn’t “make big bets on any one brand or category. It will start out incremental and if it does well, they’ll expand it.”

Target has also partnered with flea-market decorating guru Rachel Ashwell on an upcoming home linens line dubbed Simply Shabby Chic, to launch next year.

As it inches toward more affluent and sophisticated customers, Target is also expanding its successful test of wine sales in its California stores.

Campbell said the new launches seem “very consistent with what Target has been trying to do.”

Both Target and Wal-Mart are working feverishly to persuade their more affluent customers to buy higher-margin home goods and apparel.

Target is “relatively more successful” at this, Campbell said, citing Target’s superior skill at translating a lifestyle ethos into goods on a shelf.

In comparison, Wal-Mart has admitted it has been struggling, taking heavy markdowns this summer on an apparel assortment it had geared to be more trend-right.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer is relatively more reliant on a core base of low-income customers. Getting them to trade up to goods like the recently launched Signature by Levi Strauss is a tough proposition, given “spending among those shoppers has been relatively soft,” Campbell said.

As reported, Target’s holiday TV ad campaign features the Julie Andrews song classic “Favorite Things.” Supporting that will be holiday-specific “favorite things” from its flagship labels: a Mossimo cashmere-blend sweater, Swell sleepwear, an Isaac Mizrahi striped turtleneck, a Michael Graves scrabble game and a Sonia Kashuk makeup kit.

Steinhafel said the company has ramped up holiday marketing efforts compared with last year and has stockpiled more inventory on electronics, toys and digital gadgets in a bid to gain market share in those categories.

“As always, we remain vigilant in our long-standing practice of matching Wal-Mart’s prices in local markets on identical items,” he said.

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