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And we're off....

Posted by: under Retail, Target, Technology Updated: November 22, 2012 - 9:30 PM

Anyone who has ever read this blog knows that I'm not a big fan of Black Friday (or shall we say Black Thursday night). The crowds, the noise, the sheer nakedness of American capitalism on display for the world to admire or mock.

But even I got a little rush waiting for the doors open at the Target store in Bloomington. About 50 people waited outside before the doors opened at 9 p.m., hardly a mob. In fact, I've seen more three times as many people line up outside of Best Buy in Roseville around 4 a.m. a few years ago. Go figure.

Ten minutes before the store opened, a Target manager tried to lead the store employees in a mini-rally but was quickly interrupted when some moron knocked over a bunch of DVDs. That moron would be me.

Making matters worse, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel witnessed the event, the second time I embarrassed myself in front of the man. (More details in a later blog post).

"I'm glad I'm not you," a Target spokeswoman whispered to me.

Thanks much. I feel better.

Speaking of Steinhafel, I spoke to the CEO for a few minutes. We'll post some of our video later on startribune.com. Steinhafel seemed to be in a good mood, as any CEO would be when customers are about to tear the store apart on Black Friday.

But this year will be slightly different. Steinhafel is hoping to extend the sales momentum Target usually gets on Black Friday all the way to Christmas. Normally, people would buy up stuff the day after Thanksgiving and the wait until a few days before Christmas before crowding the stores again.

Beginning on Dec. 1, Target is launching an extensive collaboration with Neiman Marcus that features exclusive merchandise, including clothing, accessories, and even a bicycle, from dozens of prominent designers. Steinhafel says he's confident the collection will keep shoppers in Target stores throughout the holiday shopping season.

Target also has high hopes for its digital efforts. In addition to a bug free website, Target has installed free Wi-Fi throughout its stores (I'm using it right now) and QR codes on select merchandise. Shoppers can scan the QR codes with their smartphones and find more information online. They can even compile their own digital shopping list. Customers can also find the QR codes outside the stores on bus shelters and buy the item right there.

Until now, Target has never really been known as a high tech retailer. Steinhafel hopes that will change this year.

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