Target is opening its second liquor store in the Twin Cities metro area this week.
The Minneapolis-based retailer will open the store inside the Knollwood SuperTarget in St. Louis Park on Wednesday. And it is working through the application process to add at least three more liquor stores next to its big-box stores in St. Paul (Midway), Minnetonka, and Chaska.
The flurry of activity is a sign that Target is pleased with the results from its inital foray into alcohol sales in Minnesota. In October, Target opened its first liquor store in the state in Otsego, about 35 miles northwest of Minneapolis. The company said that was a pilot program and would decide whether to roll it out to other stores on a case-by-case basis.
"We had an overwhelmingly positive response from our guests to our first location in Otsego," Erica Julkowski, a Target spokeswoman, said in an email. "Sales have been strong and our guests tell us they love the ease and convenience of shopping for everything on their list in one place."
Target already sells liquor in 37 states, including Wisconsin. But it has not done so in Minnesota until recently because of the state's strict liquor laws that include banning Sunday sales as well the requirement that stores have separate entrances for liquor stores.
A number of grocery stores such as Cub, Rainbow, Lunds/Byerly's, Sam's Club and Costco sell liquor in stores with separate entrances. But Wal-Mart and Target have not done so.
Lilly nation is feeling grumpy this morning.
Many Lilly Pulitzer fans who stayed up all night to buy pieces from the much-hyped Lilly Pulitzer for Target collection were greeted with website issues on Target.com in the early morning hours. Then they were disheartened when they learned that most items had already sold out online.
And many stores sold out of the collection within minutes of their doors opening at 8 a.m. this morning, leaving many customers who had lined up in Black Friday-like lines empty-handed.
While some rabid fans claimed on social media that the retailer's website crashed, Target spokesman Joshua Thomas said that was not the case. But he said the overwhelming traffic to the site meant that the retailer did have to take steps to manage the site. That included allowing only some customers access to the site at certain times. And at one point, Target did make the site inaccessible for about 15 minutes in order to grapple with the traffic.
“The demand has been extreme," he said. "We know there are guests who are disappointed and we are very, very sorry.”
Target never gives an exact time in advance of when its designer partnership collections will be avaiable online since it's usually a rolling launch as the website updates throughout the early morning hours. Thomas said that while Target had hoped to make the Lilly Pulitzer collection available online by about 3 a.m. CST, it was delayed until 5 a.m. as it grappled with website traffic.
He added that the company had teams working around the clock – both at the Minneapolis headquarters and in Bangalore, India – to help manage the event.
Some Lilly fans were hoping that Target would replenish the products online later in the day. But Thomas said Target has no plans to do so since it was a limited time collaboration with limited product.
The experience is reminiscent of the much-hyped Missoni collaboration with Target back in 2011 when the website crashed. At that time, Target was still finding its legs online after taking charge of its website after having Amazon run it for many years.
But in the last year or so, the retailer has been rebuilding its website from the bottom up and to add greater functionality to it.
Target is not the only retailer to have struggled recently with its website during a major shopping event. Some might recall that Richfield-based Best Buy took its website off line a couple of times on Black Friday as a surge in mobile nearly crashed its site.
Here's how the night played out. Some items first became available throught the Target mobile site. So around midnight, rabid Lilly fans began tweeting out the links to others. Some customers appear to have been able to snag some items that way for a brief time.
But around 3 a.m., Target began notifying customers via Twitter that it was working on its website due to the heavy demand.
Due to the overwhelming excitement for the #LillyforTarget collection we are making adjustments to our website. Stay tuned for updates.— Target (@Target) April 19, 2015
For those still waiting for #LillyforTarget, we are continuing to work through our website experience. We will share updates as they come.— Target (@Target) April 19, 2015
At one point, Jason Goldberger, president of Target.com, tweeted out updates to customers.
Update. Should be live in next 30 minutes. Some items went live on mobile early. Off now. I will tweet when we go live #LillyforTarget— Jason Goldberger (@jasongoldberger) April 19, 2015
But Lilly fans were not mollified and were pretty vocal in their disappointment.
What a difference a sex makes. Target announced its collaboration with Lilly Pulitzer back in January even though the line won't be released until April 19. Since then, video promos for the iconic women's line are running regularly.
Compare that to the men's collection that Target released online Sunday, March 15. The 90-piece collection got no "heads up" in Target's Sunday circular. Online, the dominant ad is the "spring home sale," not the new men's collection.
"We kept it low key," said Target spokeswoman Jessica Carlson. "This program is a new twist on the traditional designer collaboration. It's a test and learn."
Six collections are included: Billykirk travel bags and accessories, Owen & Fred soaps and accessories, Locally Grown t-shirts and caps from Iowa, Terrapin stationery, Taylor Stitch slacks and shirts, and Minnesota-based Duluth Pack overnight and messenger bags.
Target analyst Leon Nicholas, senior vice-president at Kantar Retail, said it's surprising to see Target go after men's style after focusing so much on women. "The men's department at Target is mostly Champion, Merona, a few ties and Father's Day trinkets," he said.
It's part of an ongoing effort to move to higher prices and higher profit margin items, Nicholas said. "If we lose penetration, let's double down on where the money is," he said of Target's strategy.
Prices on most pieces are on the high side for a discounter, including a $36 tee from Locally Grown, Taylor Stitch pants for $98, and a bar of vegan soap with cedar tray for $16 (oddly out of stock already). The highest-priced item is a Duluth Pack bag for $270.
Instead of traditional advertising, the company is using more social media channels to appeal to the Millennial audience. The items are higher-priced but made in the U.S., a feature that Carlson said is often more appealing to male shoppers.
The collection will be available online through mid-summer. Some pieces from Billykirk will be made available in 130 stores, including some in the Twin Cities. Most but not all of the items are Target exclusives.
Nicholas expects the collection to be moderately successful for Target. "It's a good platform for what Millennial men will buy and at what price point," he said.
Target’s newest and smallest stores are turning out to be kinda like snowflakes – no two will be exactly the same.
That is becoming increasingly apparent as plans take shape for the second TargetExpress location in the Twin Cities, slated to open in July in St. Paul’s Highland Park.
The first TargetExpress opened in Dinkytown last summer. Given its proximity to the University of Minnesota, it is catered to college students living in apartments and on a budget. So you don't find things like kids' toys there.
But the Highland Park store is in a neighborhood with lots of families. So that store will not only have toys but also items like kids' sporting goods and supplies for a child's birthday party. And it will have more home decor and kitchen accessories as well as a sizable selection of natural and organic products, said Erika Winkels, a Target spokeswoman.
And whereas the Dinkytown store has a whole area dedicated to Gophers-related sweatpants and shirts, the Highland Park store will be fan gear-free.
“The beauty of TargetExpress is that it is so localized,” said Winkels. “We can tailor it for the neighborhood it is going into.”
The Highland Park store, which is going into a recently-shuttered Barnes & Noble location, will be smaller at 16,000 square feet compared to Dinkytown's 20,000 square feet. (Target's suburban big box stores are about six times larger. The retailer also has a mid-size format called CityTarget.)
The Highland Park store is one of eight TargetExpress stores opening this year, compared to six big-box Target stores. These smaller-format stores are of particular interest to Target CEO Brian Cornell who is looking to them to help fuel Target's future growth. He has also said that personalization and localization of stores will be a big part of his strategy.
While they will be different in many ways, the two TargetExpress stores in the Twin Cities will also have a lot in common. They will both have pharmacies. They won’t have much apparel other than some packaged T-shirts and socks. They will both have a lot of private-label brands such as Up & Up to offer cheaper prices.
But it remains to be seen if the families in Highland Park will have as big of an appetite for meat as the hungry college athletes in Dinkytown. The latter store has added more ground turkey, chicken, and hamburger since it opened upon request from students who wanted more protein, Winkels said. The store also beefed up its selection of eggs.
But cheese hasn't been as big of a hit with the college students. So the Dinkytown store has, yes, cut (back) the cheese.
Target sure knows how to throw a party.
In order to announce its next designer partnership, the Minneapolis-based retailer rented out the Four Season Restaurant's pool room in midtown Manhattan. It shrouded the designer's identity in secrecy until guests, including New York fashion editors, arrived, building up the suspense by dangling clues on signs in the hallway leading up to the room.
Once they entered the room, they learned the answer: Lilly Pulitzer, the resortwear line known for its vibrant prints. The brand's founder and namesake, a Palm Beach designer, died in 2013.
Models lounged on hammocks around a small pool in the center of the room. And a handful of exotic birds, including a macaw, were sprinkled throughout the space. (Pulitzer was apparently quite the socialite and often had animals, including monkeys, at her parties.)
Samples of the 250-piece Lilly Pulitzer for Target collection were scattered throughout the room. The limited-edition collaboration has a much broader range of items than offered in Target's more recent designer partnerships that have been more apparel-focused. This collection will span not just women's and girls' clothes, but will also have everything from dishes and towels to hammocks and nail polish.
And, yes, parts of this collection will be available in plus sizes (14-26) online. Target has been criticized in the past for not offering plus sizes in all of its previous collaborations.
Most of the pieces will be under $30, but the collection overall will range in price from $2 to $150. The items will hit stores and Target's website on April 19.
"Ultimately, we were looking for someone to work with who understands print and patterns," said Joshua Thomas, a Target spokesman. "We wanted something cheery and optimistic."
Target also went with bold prints last spring with its designer partnership with Peter Pilotto. Its most recent collaboration with Joseph Altuzarra in the fall had a more sophisticated feel to it.
Lilly Pulitzer's team has been working with Target for about a year on the upcoming collection, Thomas said. He added that it includes 15 exclusive prints, which are updated versions of Pulitzer's designs over of the years.
The conventional wisdom has been that it’s best to wait until late in the holiday season to get the lowest prices. But that wasn’t the case this year when it came to toys, according to analytics firm 360pi.
That firm has been closely tracking the online price changes on thousands of items throughout this holiday season at major retailers. Its most recent study focuses on a sample of over 270 toys, some of which were expected to be the hot sellers of the season and some of which were picked at random.
It found that that the prices on those toys at Target, Toys R Us, Amazon and Walmart were lower on Black Friday than they were on the so-called "Super Saturday," the last Saturday before Christmas, which was expected to be the busiest shopping day of the year. But, the firm added, it wasn’t a huge difference.
"After Super Saturday, with before-Christmas shipping no longer avaialble, we can see retailers returning to their 'regular price,'" 360pi wrote in its report.
Another interesting nugget from the report was that Amazon, Target and Walmart raised prices on those toys on Friday, the day before Super Saturday, and then dropped them on Saturday. That way, one might surmise, the "sales" seemed even bigger on those items.
So when was the best time to buy those toys? Toys R Us, Walmart, and Target had their lowest average online prices at some point after Black Friday during "Cyber Week", the first week of December.
Interestingly enough, Amazon was the msot consistent with its pricing on toys throughout the period from Black Friday to Super Saturday. It was the traditional retailers who had more erratic pricing changes.