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Target never content to rest on its laurels

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Target still has the knack for bringing excitement to the shopping experience. The company that carved out a distinct identity among mass market retailers as the upscale discounter, with a unique ability to get out ahead of trends, is reimagining holiday shopping at a pop-up store in New York City.

Billed by the company as part store, part holiday playground, the 16,000-square-foot Target Wonderland features 10 special exhibits that are designed to put the magic back in shopping. The larger-than-life displays include a Christmas tree comprised of 320 green foam Hulk Hands; a giant Etch A Sketch; and the S.S. Free Shipping, the LEGO pirate ship that appears in Target’s holiday television commercials.

Digital technology is provided to customers as they enter the store to enhance their visit. Individuals receive an RFID key that allows them to scan a bull’s-eye tag on merchandise to create a custom digital list. When finished shopping, customers can purchase anything on their list at checkout.

Like other holiday-themed pop-up stores that the company has operated in New York City, Target Wonderland is, in its totality, intended as a onetime phenomenon. Insights gained from the store should, however, prove invaluable as the retailer rethinks its strategy in an omnichannel world.

Under the leadership of CEO Brian Cornell, Target has embraced that challenge. In light of e-commerce’s strengths — endless aisles, sharp pricing and efficient delivery — the people at Target know that traditional retailing, especially involving products that aren’t being purchased for immediate use, will have to change or risk becoming obsolete. To compete going forward, brick-and-mortar stores must offer consumers something they can’t get online — whether it’s the ability to examine products firsthand, expert advice in categories like pharmacy and beauty care, or the kind of experiential elements found in Target Wonderland.

The name of that store brings to mind a quote from Lewis Carroll: “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.” Appearing in a completely different context in Through the Looking Glass, the passage is nonetheless applicable to the current retailing scene. Target clearly understands the need to move quickly and is acting accordingly.


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