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An inside look at top retailers and the consumers they covet

Target to sell purple Science Museum hoodie from 'Stranger Things'

Target has been selling an exclusive line of "Stranger Things" merchandise with items such as shirts that say, "What would Barb do?" But the one thing missing from its collection has been that one thing that went viral: the purple "Thunder Lizard" hoodie.

The Minneapolis-based retailer is rectifying that situation in a partnership with the Science Museum of Minnesota, whose world was turned upside down when the shirt it briefly produced in the mid-1980s made a surprising appearance on the second season of the Netflix hit series.

Rushing to capitalize on the moment, the museum hustled to reproduce the shirt and has sold more than 30,000 of them since November. In addition to the science museum's name, the hoodies features a picture of a brontosaurus skeleton.

Target will sell the unisex hoodie (in sizes XS thru XXL) in about 1,400 of its 1,800 stores starting later this month. It will not, however, be sold on Target.com.

Kim Ramsden, a spokeswoman for the Science Museum of Minnesota, said the sweatshirts sold by Target will be virtually identical to the ones the museum has been selling except for the inside tag which will say Target on it. A portion of the proceeds will go back to the museum and its education programs.

"We're thrilled because it's a way to continue to support the mission of the museum by seeing more 'Thunder Lizard' apparel out there and boost awareness of the museum across the country," she said. "We're grateful for the partnership. They're a Minnesota company and we're a Minnesota museum."

At the same time, the science museum will continue to sell its line of "Thunder Lizard" apparel in its gift shop and on the website it created late last year to sell the items.

As the science musem began exploring the idea of reproducing the shirts back in October, Ramsden said Target was one of the entities the museum initially reached out to for advice in how to sell it online since the museum didn't have an e-commerce site and to feel out if it made sense to do a partnership. She added that Target is already a big supporter of its education programs and has had some executives sit on its board in the past.

The museum decided to do it on its own, reaching out to a printer in Wisconsin to put the design on purple sweatshirts and set up an e-commerce site for the "Thunder Lizard" line through Shopify. The demand for the shirts was so great that the website crashed the first day they went on sale.

The initial craze has died down now. But the museum still sells about 8 to 10 shirts a day online, with about a third of the orders coming from abroad.

The shirts have pulled in about $1 million in sales, roughly equivalent to a whole year's worth of revenue from its gift shop where it sells things like science experiment kits, jewelry, stuffed dinosaurs, rock candy and astronaut ice cream.

The proceeds from the shirts, which amount to about $500,000, are being directed to the museum's education programs. Given the big influx of funds, the museum is exploring some ideas for adding new programs, Ramsden said.

The museum is also trying to figure out if the explosion of interest in the purple dino hoodies has translated to an uptick in visitors. 

"Having those 30,000 hoodies all across the world are walking billboards for us," she added.

In the meantime, in addition to the dino sweatshirts, Target will also be launching more "Stranger Things" related merchandise in coming weeks.

Amazon's push into apparel has hurt Target the most, survey finds

Amazon's push into selling apparel is drawing the most customers away from Target Corp., according to a new research report.

The survey by Coresight Research (formerly Fung Global Retail) found that 30 percent of respondents who had spent more on clothing from Amazon in the last year said they had switched some of their spending from Target, making it the top retailer to lose out to Amazon in apparel. Macy's and J.C. Penney were also found to be high up on the losing end in addition to Walmart and Kohl's.

“The biggest battles in U.S. retail are often characterized as Amazon versus Walmart and Amazon versus the department stores,” Deborah Weinswig wrote in the report. “However, our research suggests that Amazon versus Target may actually be the bigger battle, at least in apparel.”

At the same time, Target has been working hard in the last year to refresh its own portfolio clothing brands. Last fall, it launched a new men's apparel line, Goodfellow & Co., and replaced Merona with A New Day in its women’s department. Its latest new brand, Universal Thread, which is taking the place of Mossimo, hit stores and Target.com in recent days.

In a statement, Target said it's seeing "clear signs" that its strategy is working based on the strong response to these new brands.

"Our investments in both the brands and a cohesive stores and digital experience that today’s guests expect are delivering results that are consistently outpacing overall apparel industry performance, according to NPD, a leading retail and consumer trends research firm," Target said.

Last summer, I asked Mark Tritton, Target’s chief merchandiser about how worried he was about Amazon’s push into clothing while I was interviewing him for a story about the launch of some of these new brands.

"We keep an eye on them like all of our competitors," he said then.

But he added that Target already has an established customer who comes to it for style. “There’s a real relationship with Target," he said. "We’re more than just an algorithm. We’re an emotion to them.”

Still, various studies have documented the high overlap between people who shop at Target and are also Amazon Prime members. So it's no surprise that Target is one of the most vulnerable to Amazon's expansion into apparel. The online retailer has rolled out a host of its own private labels as well as added more name brands.

Nike, Under Armour and Hanes are the most popular brands sold on Amazon, according to the Coresight survey.

The study found that, as one might expect, those with Prime memberships are more likely to buy clothing from Amazon. In the survey, nearly two-third of Prime members had bought clothing or footwear on Amazon in the last year, compared to 46 percent of non-Prime members.

Amazon does not release sales figures by category so it’s hard to discern its overall sales in apparel, but some analysts had forecast it to overtake Macy's last year as the biggest seller of clothing in the U.S.

The Coresight study suggests that Amazon is now tied with Target as the second-most shopped apparel retailer in the U.S. after Walmart.