Target gives small shops mass appeal

Target is bringing the experience of small, independent shops to the masses with its next design partnership, “The Shops at Target.”

Launching May 16 for a six-week run in all Target stores and online, “The Shops at Target” will provide customers with the feel of visiting some of the world’s most unique boutiques without having to travel beyond their nearest Target store. 

The series will begin with five U.S. specialty stores: The Candy Store, a candy boutique from San Francisco; Cos Bar, an Aspen-based high-end makeup, perfume and personal care store, Polka Dog Bakery; a dog bakery from Boston; Privet House, a Connecticut-based home design store; and The Webster, a Miami-based fashion store. According to a Target press release, the collections will include nearly 400 exclusive products ranging in price from $1 to $159.99. (Click here to view a video describing each store and its partnership with Target.)

“One of the reasons our guests love shopping at Target is our design partnerships. They create excitement and leave even the most loyal Target shoppers wondering what we’ll do next,” said, Brian Robinson, director of fashion and design partnerships, in a press statement. “With The Shops at Target, we’re building on that sense of discovery by offering our guests a chance to experience one-of-a-kind specialty stores and boutiques through collections that have been specifically tailored to their wants and needs.”

Robinson noted at a press event Thursday that Target purposefully focused on shops outside of New York City and Los Angeles in order to bring lesser-known shops to Target’s customers.

Rather than trying to change the stores’ to fit Target’s model, or redesigning Target to fit the stores, Target said it worked with the owners to create store-within-a-store concepts that capture the essence of the boutiques without compromising Target’s sensibilities.

This sentiment was echoed by Polka Dog Bakery co-owner Rober Van Sickle, who told Retailing Today that “working with Target was a very collaborative process, and (he and and co-owner Deb Gregg) were allowed to do what they wanted with the store.” A freedom, Van Sickle noted, not often allotted with other big-box partnerships.

According to Robinson, this level of cooperation was key to making the design series “an utter celebration of these shops,” and giving the owners the chance to bring their signature store experience to Target customers.

For The Candy Store owners, Diane and Brian Campbell, this means eliciting that feeling of nostalgia when customers see their favorite childhood treats. Diane Campbell said she wants visitors to her Target store to feel like a kid in a candy store, and believes people will react with pure joy.

As with its other design partnerships, Target expects “The Shops” to deliver spikes in demand on its website. Stacia Andersen, SVP merchandising for home, assured press that the retailer’s Web team is in place and that they learned a great deal from the unprecedented popularity of its Missoni collection.