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An inside look at top retailers and the consumers they covet

Target sets up website to invite pitches from startups

Target is creating a clearer roadmap for startups who want to do business with it.

The Minneapolis-based retailer launched a new website last week -- www.startup.target.com -- that invites pitches from early-stage companies who are interested in running pilot programs with the big-box giant.

The company wants to use this portal to find new technology platforms to enhance the customer experience in its stores and through its digital channels. It is not intended to be the place to go to plug products that companies want Target to sell on its shelves or online. For that, startups have to continue to follow the more traditional routes for now.

"Innovate with one of the most powerful brands in retail," the website says describing what it calls the "Pitch to Pilot" program. "Target is collaborating with disruptors in the retail industry to drive innovation."

The initiative is one of several ways that Target is looking to engage with startups. It just recently graduated its first class of 11 startups who took part in a three-month accelerator in partnership with Techstars -- and will host at least two more in the coming years. It has been running similar incubators at its offices in India in recent years.

Its California-based Internet of Things team has also met with more than 400 connected home startups in the last year hoping to have its products featured in its experimental "Open House" store in San Francisco.

But still, Target realized it needed a better intake process to engage with startups who have been reaching out to the company in greater numbers since it started the Techstars programs, said Target spokeswoman Jenna Reck.

"A lot of it was people reaching out over email or through LinkedIn or if they knew somebody at Target," she said. "And you never know if you're reaching out to the right person."

The new website is aimed at fixing that problem by setting up a more formal process that eliminates some of the mystery in who to connect with at Target.

The site says it only takes 15 minutes to fill out a pitch form and promises a response from Target within 30 days.

Target isn't the only one trying to streamline the process for startups. Earlier this week, Best Buy unveiled a new program called "Ignite," similar to Amazon's Launchpad, through which startups can more easily submit their products for consideration to be sold on the retailer's website.

Bestbuy.com will then highlight those selected products in a special section of its website.

Best Buy to open stores at midnight for release of PlayStation VR

Best Buy is expecting a lot of excitement when Sony's PlayStation VR becomes available for sale next month.

So the Richfield-based retailer is going to open about 350 of its stores at around midnight to enable eager gamers to get their hands on the virtual reality headsets as soon as they officially go on sale.

In the central time zone, select stores will open at 11:01 p.m. on October 12. If you're on the East Coast, stores will open at 12:01 on October 13 and on the West Coast it will be 9:01 p.m.

In the Twin Cities, Best Buy's stores in Apple Valley, Coon Rapids, Maple Grove, Maplewood, Minnetonka, Oakdale, Richfield and Roseville will open late for the release. Other stores will have "limited quantities" of the devices available for sale the next day as well as on BestBuy.com.

Best Buy, which is hoping that virtual reality takes off and becomes a big new source of revenue, has already been offering in-store demos of PlayStation VR for the last few months, as it's also done with the Oculus Rift.

It's not unusual for Best Buy to open some of it stores in the middle of night. In October alone, select Best Buy stores will open around midnight releases of games such as Gears of War 4, Mafia III, Battlefield 1, Titanfall 2, and The Elder Scrolls V. And in November, it will do so for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.