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A Smaller Format: TargetExpress hopes to Capture an Urban Demographic


As Target and Wal-Mart struggle from internal and external woes, there’s a new opportunity for redemption. With foot traffic falling, Target has been concentrating its efforts on its digital presence, smaller retail spaces and a younger consumer base.

Target has launched several initiatives including the debut of its first TargetExpress store on the campus of the University of Minnesota. According to MediaPost, the store is “just 15 percent of the size of its typical store” and is “heavy on beauty, electronics and convenience food.” Target is using this campus-area neighborhood to refine the TargetExpress model, which will be the stepping-stone for Target’s entrée into dense urban areas.

Until now, students did their shopping at a couple of different stores in the area, but now TargetExpress is getting some of that grocery business, as well as the essentials which CVS has, but TargetExpress offers more cheaply.

It is one-sixth the size of a traditional Target, at only 20,000 square feet, and beauty, pharmaceutical, and grocery items are placed front and center of the store. Pack sizes are smaller, which allow for instant consumption. There is also a Fan Central section for the University of Minnesota branded clothing and accessories. It focuses on the essentials.

A breakdown of the new format in Dinkytown, Minn., illustrates just how different this TargetExpress is and why its success may be fairly secure: A Welcome Wall up front greets University of Minnesota student shoppers. Flip-flops, shirts and beauty products are prevalent—in fact a “beauty concierge” is there to help anyone with questions. Their Tech department carries phones and phone cases; the grocery area features fresh produce, meat, a deli and grab-n-go items. Target’s own brand represent a good value and with a pharmacy included on premises, people can bundle their trips for one-stop shopping.

“Cartwheel” displays, Target’s digital savings app, are visible at the end of aisles. You can download items you want, scan and save. Digital service stations are positioned throughout the store, so if you can’t find products in the store or want to order something online, you can type in what you’re looking for and you’ll be pointed to where it is in the store, or the app will take you to the online site. You can even request a store staffer meet you at the designated location to help you.

Target’s newest app, ‘In a Snap,’ is positioned on posters all over the store. You can scan the image on the poster and shop instantly from your mobile device. Whether you see something in the store or online, you can order it online, pay for it and pick it up at the service desk in the store.

Don’t think that TargetExpress is similar to CityTarget. Those stores range between 80,000 and 125,000 square feet, and SuperTarget stores average 174,000 square feet. With TargetExpress, Target is hoping to eliminate complaints of long lines, navigational challenges and uninspired offerings seen in larger format stores.

Smaller stores are a welcome sign in today’s retail environment because they require less overhead, which can help profitability. Plus, this kind of format is not only convenient, but is more nimble and can be geo-targeted to a specific demographic. Target is hoping that this test store in Minneapolis paves the way for future TargetExpress stores in bigger cities like Los Angeles and New York

While Target is still dealing with the impact of its data breaches and Canadian expansion challenges, its innovative moves to stay ahead of consumer trends may help in overcoming some of these difficulties.


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