Target is piloting a new subscription service on target.com for baby-care essentials, including diapers, wipes, formulas, training pants -- and more.
The service allows moms and dads to schedule regular deliveries of these crucial items. This is the first time the Minneapolis-based retailer has offered an online subscription service.
According to Target's website, the 150 eligible subscription items can be found at Target.com/targetsubscriptions. This includes bulk-sized items delivered to the doorstep in regular four- to 12-week installments. As a subscription nears expiration, shoppers will be sent an email from Target reminding them to update their list.
"Like anything new, we know there may be some hiccups (baby pun intended) with this new service. That’s why Target is encouraging feedback as we work to refine and enhance the offering—and help make some of your parenting duties a little bit easier," Target said.
In case you haven't noticed, it's the holiday shopping season. Reports have been surfacing (Including our story here) in recent days about retailers hiring holiday temps, including Target, which is actually hiring fewer employees this season.
Outplacement consulting guru Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports that shaky consumer confidence and increased efficiencies among retailers may conspire to dampen overall holiday hiring. That, despite a 12-year high in hiring last year.
In its annual holiday hiring forecast, CGC said seasonal job gains will not see a significant decline from last year’s numbers, in fact, they are likely to match the level of hiring that occurred in October, November, and December 2012.
In 2012, retail employment increased by a non-seasonally adjusted 751,800 between Oct.1 and Dec. 31, up 11 percent from the previous year, CGC said. That was the heaviest holiday hiring binge since 2000, when retailers added 788,200 to their payrolls during the final three months of the year.
"While, the economy and job market are improving, it has now been four years since the recession officially ended and millions of Americans are still unemployed or underemployed," said John Challenbger, CEO of the firm, in a statement. "As a result, consumers remain uneasy, which is evidenced by wide monthly mood swings in confidence surveys.”
“Price-conscious consumers are doing more and more of their holiday shopping online, where they often find the best deals and can typically enjoy free delivery and no sales tax," he said. "The ongoing shift to Internet shopping could see some seasonal hiring in this area, but the numbers will never match the employment gains seen in traditional brick-and-mortar establishments, primarily because there simply are not has many. For every Amazon, there are dozens of national retail chains with the potential to hire thousands.”
In today's article about the success of Mike Lindell and his MyPillow product, I mention that the pillow has a 60 day money-back guarantee and claims to reduce snoring, migraines, insomnia, neck pain, sleep apnea and fibromyalgia.
First, a note about the guarantee. Consumers have complained that when they try to return the pillow they are encouraged to try a different fill amount instead. The company offers a "white" version with a medium amount of poly-fill, a "green" version with slightly more and "blue" version with even more. So if you want to return the pillow because your medical problems haven't subsided, the company will try to exchange the pillow until they get it right.
That's a reasonable strategy, but what some cosnumers have discovered is that the 60-day warranty doesn't re-start when you get the replacement pillow. In other words, if you return a "green" premium pillow for a "white" one after 45 days, you're fine. But if you decide to return the 'white" one after 20 days, you will have exceeded the 60 day limit and you will not be eligible for a refund. Bottom line:Do all of your exchanges within 60 days, or you won't be eligible for a refund.
Ironically, many of us who may be unhappy with the pillow because it didn't solve our medical problems won't bother returning it anyway, said Vladas Griskevicius, associate professor of marketing at the Univeristy of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. "Most consumers are too embarrassed to to return a relatively expensive item, especially if the product makes medical claims," he said.
Griskevicius said that MyPillow's comparatively expensive price ($50 to $90) makes consumers tend to believe its benefits. "If it only cost $20 no one would believe its medical claims," he said.
Most of the 20 readers who contacted me after a Facebook inquiry liked their MyPillow. A surprising number also said that it didn't live up to its medical claims, but that they still prefer it over the other pillows piling up in the closet.
Thymes fans, your warehouse sale will return this fall on October 11-13. The famous soaps and scents sale is popular with many bargain hunters who stock up for themselves and persons on their holiday gift list during the sale where everything sells for $1, $2, $3, $6, $8, $15 or $20, Buyers save 50 to 70 percent on discontinued and overstocked scents and soaps
Last year, the company received so many complaints from disappointed customers when no sale materialized that it decided to have a smaller, pop-up sale in December. It was still a good sale but a fraction of the size.
This year the sale will be at the company's headquarters at 629 SE 9th St. in Minneapolis, the same location as last year's pop-up sales. Although the space isn't nearly as large as the previous one, Cindy Andersen, vice-president of operations at Thymes, is confident that Thymes can handle a larger crowd at the new facility. She expects about the same amount of merchandise as the large warehouse sales in years past.
"We simplified our layout of the sale and subsequently have a more efficient process," she wrote in an email.
Last year many warehouse sales were canceled. Thymes and Europa Import of Vadnais Heights didn't have the inventory as stores trimmed inventories during the recession.
George John, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, said that so many overruns and closeouts have moved to the Web that warehouse sales have taken a hit. "The Internet is now the outlet of choice," he said.
Although Thymes has brought back its warehouse sale for 2013, Europa Import, Manhattan Toy, and Illume Candles in Bloomington have no plans to include a warehouse sale this year.
Target Corp. thinks its smaller format CityTargets can get even smaller.
During a recent conference call with analysts to discuss second quarter earnings, CEO Gregg Steinhafel said the company was looking at ways to reduce the size of the urban centric store.
“We are building the capability to operate stores in smaller spaces, particularly in urban markets,” Steinhafel said. “We are analyzing results in our [existing CityTargets] to understand where in the stores we have the ability to reduce space even more allowing us to further shrink the size of this store format.”
Launched last year in cities like Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle, CityTargets are typically 80,000 to 100,000 square feet compared to the regular big boxes, which typically 150,000 square feet or larger.
For Target, the obvious advantage of the format is that you can find more places to stick one in a dense urban core.
Target was pretty lucky to find the urban real estate to accommodate the seven CityTargets it currently operates, said Amy Koo, an analyst with Kantar Retail consulting firm in Boston.
“It’s really hard to find these spaces,” she said.
Going smaller will presumably give Target more options as it scouts future locations for the format.
Thinking even further ahead, Target’s experimentation might allow it to figure out ways to shrink the size of its regular big box stores to make them more productive, Koo said.
With U.S. sales weak, big boxes like Best Buy and Sears have adopted strategies to make the most of its space. Best Buy has partnered with vendors like Microsoft and Samsung to create store-within-a-store concepts while Sears has leased excess space to outside companies.
Big boxes over the next decade will realize that they don’t need nearly all of the space they currently own or lease, Koo said.
“People just don’t go to the general box to stock up anymore,” she said.
In today's article about pitchmen and women at the fair, I noted that many of the hawkers have to offer a slightly better deal during the fair on products that can be purchased online, in stores or by phone. Consumers deserve a little extra savings for carrying a salsa maker or a mop all over the fair.
By the way, non-food concessionaires don't have to pay the Minnesota State fair a percentage of their sales. (Food vendors do.) Non-food concessionaires pay a space rental of $105 per front foot. So a 10-foot wide booth front would pay $1,050 for the 12 days, said fair spokeswoman Brienna Schuette.
Here are a couple of other deals offered at the fair that aren't being actively pitched by professional hawkers.
Angie's List, the local version of Consumer Reports that rates service providers such as plumbers, electricians, tree trimmers and hundreds more, is offering a one-year subscription or renewal rate for $10 or $15, normally $39 or more. The $10 renewal includes access to all of Angie's ratings and reviews for home, lawn car and pet care. The $15 rate includes ratings of doctors, dentists and hospitals. This year's deal is $5 less than the deal in 2011.
The Angie's List booth is located in the Home Improvement Building next to Kidway. If you can't make it to the fair, you can also get the same rate by phone at 1-888-888-5478. Ask for the Minnesota State Fair Discount.
Twin Cities Consumers' Checkbook, a non-profit competitor to Angie's List, is also doing a State Fair Special online. For $15, regularly $34, readers will receive a two-year all access subscription to the print magazines, newsletters and online access to hundreds of auto repair shops, vets, dentists and doctors. Checkbook doesn't rate as many service provider categories as Angie's list, but its ratings are more comprehensive, including very helpful price comparisions. A mobile app is also available. To get the deal, visit Checkbook by Sept. 11.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota is offering one free Online Care doctor's visit at the fair for participants who have their photo taken in front of a green screen. The voucher can be used anytime through Nov. 30. Online Care Anywhere allows anyone, not just Blue Cross members, a 10 minute doctor's visit via live web cam. Users will interact with a real doctor (internist, family physician or emergency room doc) who can prescribe medication if necessary.
The 24-hour service offers short wait times, which average about 3 minutes, according to BCBS of Minnesota.
The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota State Fair booth is located at Underwood St. and Judson Ave.