Target puts boutique Shops on hiatus

  • Article by: THOMAS LEE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 8, 2013 - 8:10 PM

The Minneapolis-based retailer is returning to its traditional strategy of partnering with one designer at a time.

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Target’s holiday collaboration with Neiman Marcus wasn’t a hit with consumers.

Photo: MARLIN LEVISON , Star Tribune

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The Shops at Target likely won’t be being setting up shop anytime soon.

The Minneapolis-based retailer said it has no immediate plans to revive the concept, in which nearly a half-dozen boutique shops around the country create merchandise to sell exclusively in Target stores.

Spokeswoman Katie Boylan said Target has not ruled out bringing Shops back at some point. But for now, the company is focused on its traditional design partnerships. Target recently rolled a collection from Prabal Gurung and will announce another collaboration on Monday.

“At this time, we don’t have plans for a future ‘flight’ of the Shops at Target, but we do have a number of collaborations planned for 2013 and beyond,” Boylan said.

Announced with great fanfare in New York early last year, Shops showcased limited-edition merchandise from five boutiques across the country, including everything from dog biscuits and candy to dishes and clothes. The first group of boutiques debuted in the spring with another wave hitting stores in the fall.

Target declined to release sales figures, but some analysts suspect Shops didn’t make much of an impact with consumers.

“I never really heard much about it,” said retail consultant Doug Stephens. “I suspect it was not much of a showstopper.”

As more retailers emulate Target’s design partnerships, Target has been searching for new ways to refresh a strategy that has been crucial to the company’s success.

“The Shops at Target is an example of how Target continues to explore new programs,” Boylan said. “We’re always putting a unique and fresh spin on the concept of design collaborations with the goal of bringing our guests compelling assortments at great prices.”

In addition to Shops, the retailer last year rolled a major holiday collaboration with Neiman Marcus. The two retailers jointly sold a limited-edition assortment of exclusive clothing, home goods, and even electronics accessories created by 24 high-profile designers, including Marc Jacobs and Oscar de la Renta. But the collection failed to take hold with consumers, forcing Target to cut prices by 70 percent.

Stephens said the Shops and Neiman Marcus demonstrate the pitfalls of marketing collections under a retailer brand rather than an individual designer. For example, Missoni gave Target a lift because consumers didn’t expect the retailer to sell clothing from the high-end Italian fashion house. Subjugating multiple designers, whether famous ones like Diane von Furstenberg or a relatively unknown store like Privet House, to the Target banner deprives the company of that lift.

In other words, can consumers necessarily separate in their minds the designer/boutique collections from Target’s own in-house brands?

“The point of these programs is to give Target an element of cachet they otherwise wouldn’t get on their own,” Stephens said.

David Strasser, an analyst with Janney Capital Management, said he considers Shops and Neiman Marcus a success in the sense they kept Target in the news as a retailer always willing to try new and interesting things.

“Did they make much of a sales impact?” Strasser said. “No. But Target got tons of publicity. There is no detriment.”

 

Thomas Lee • 612-673-4113

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