Target partners with niece of former President George W. Bush

  • Article by: THOMAS LEE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 12, 2013 - 9:21 AM

Lauren Bush Lauren, who is married to the son of Ralph Lauren, helped design collection to benefit FEED Projects.

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Target Corp.’s ongoing effort to remake its trademark design partnerships continued Monday when it announced a collaboration with the niece of former President George W. Bush to create a charity-based fashion line.

The Minneapolis-based retailer said it partnered with Lauren Bush Lauren on a collection of clothes, stationery and home goods to help fund FEED Projects, an organization she founded to combat global hunger. FEED USA+Target, which debuts June 30, will feature 50 products priced from $3 to $400. Target will donate 10 percent of each sold item’s retail price to FEED Projects.

Target also says the collection has the potential to fund more than 10 million meals. The retailer calculates that $1 will equal eight meals, meaning Target expects FEED USA+Target to generate roughly $12.5 million in sales.

Lauren, a fashion model and designer, is the daughter of Neil Bush, brother to George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. She is married to David Lauren, the son of famed fashion mogul Ralph Lauren.

She will appear on some in-store signage but not in any print ads or television commercials.

The initiative is a way “to bring our guests a collection founded on great design as well as a cause that may be important to them,” said ­Target spokeswoman Katie Boylan.

This isn’t the first time Target has mixed retail with charity and progressive causes. The company has offered Earth Day-related products as well as cards for same-sex couples. Target has also sold some limited edition holiday-themed Bullseye stuffed animals to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

But FEED USA+Target will be a much larger effort. It also comes at a time when Target is trying to keep ahead of competitors that have copied its trademark strategy of partnering with designers to create exclusive merchandise.

So far, Target’s efforts have yielded mixed results. The company told the Star Trib­une last week that it has no immediate plans to revive the Shops at Target, a strategy it launched last year that showcased merchandise from five boutiques around the country. Last year’s much-hyped holiday collaboration with Neiman Marcus yielded disappointing sales.

With FEED USA+Target, the company joins a growing number of retailers fusing commerce with charity. Through its RED initiative, Irish rock band U2 has partnered with Apple, Gap and Nike to help fund efforts to eliminate AIDS in Africa. Toms Shoes donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes it sells online and at stores.

Philanthropy aside, charitable projects can translate into good business, especially among retailers. A report by IHL Consulting Group said 65 percent of the consumers it surveyed said they were more likely to shop at a particular retailer if the retailer worked with a charity.

“In a period of retail history that is increasingly defined by a lack of loyalty among customers … there is an opportunity for retailers to connect with their customers by tying themselves to visible and public charitable giving,” the report said. “Customers want to know their purchases are making a difference in the world, not just lining the pockets of management and shareholders.”

Judith Russell, an analyst with the Robin Report, an industry newsletter, said FEED USA+Target can help attract young, socially conscious shoppers to Target’s stores. At the same time, the prospect of funding a good cause can prompt consumers to open their wallets at a time when money is still tight.

“In times of economic distress, the collection gives us a good excuse to go shopping,” Russell said.

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