Recent television ads about The Shops at Target have had countless independent retailers spinning like a whirling dervish. “Store within a store” concepts have been highly successful for numerous vendors (think: the Coach department at Macy’s, the Kiehl’s counters at Nordstrom, and a bazillion Vera Bradley walls in gift shops everywhere). Incorporating the format into big boxes—using the “local independents” angle, no less—has rattled more than a couple of cages.
The fact Target advertises these “Shops” as “a curated collection of home, beauty, fashion and pet products from…specialty stores” doesn’t help, painting a picture of cozy environments bubbling with delight, nestled between familiar red walls, bursting with exciting designs, catchy displays, oh-my-gosh-that’s-to-die-for offerings.
Well folks, they aren’t. Not even close.
I took a little stroll through Target yesterday morning, here in the land where the big red bullseye was born. You can’t miss the theme—two feet in the door, huge versions of each “shop’s” store sign float overhead, with a giant “The Shops at Target” sign in the center.
But that’s where the impact ends.
Much to my shock (and glee), the “Shops” turned out to be no more than endcap displays. Plain ol’ run of the mill endcaps. Shelves. Product lined up on shelves. The only hint that there’s something different going on is that these particular endcaps have a small “Shops” sign dangling overhead in the aisle, complemented by a smaller store-specific sign on the header. (Cos-Bar somehow managed to get a second sign dangling over the aisle at their single endcap.)
With the exception of Privet House (who had a couple of non-adjacent aisles to accommodate large items), each “shop” had one, maybe two endcaps—also, not adjacent. In fact, no two displays for a single “store” were along the same sight line.
The resulting effect was the opposite of what most retailers feared. Instead of dynamic consumer magnets, the displays look like normal Target fare with a couple of interesting signs. No more. No less. Just stuff on shelves.
Like anyone, I’m curious about what, exactly, these featured “stores” get in the deal, other than face time on t.v. There won’t be financial windfalls—big boxes don’t give anything away, nor do they repeat something for very long. Find it. Get it. Sell it. Next.
When the resulting fifteen minutes of fame comes to a close, these once-independent retailers will likely find themselves in the same pickle as many small vendors, post-big-box-involvement: With a brand that’s diluted by over-exposure, recategorized as mainstream, and supported by far fewer customers than they originally had going in.
It’s just like Grandpa Baxter said—there’s no such thing as a quick fortune.