Is the death of the physical retail store fake news? Target thinks so.

target renovated store, university of north texas target interview, linda mihalick

If you only read the headlines, many recent doomsday reports have you believing the physical store is dead, but we can assuredly categorize this as fake news. Target is one mega-retailer that is challenging the pessimists and investing about $7 million per store to renovate and elevate the in-store experience for the digitally-savvy customer. Target CEO Brian Cornell admits their stores have become “tired” and “old, and they’re going to do something about it.

The reality is, almost 90% of all retail purchases are still made in physical stores. What’s wrong with the reports is that for the customer, it’s not about online or in-store. It’s about the full experience, because many customers start the purchase journey in one channel and complete it in another. The retail survivors are investing in all areas, including their digital, physical store and customer service experiences.

Target and the University of North Texas’ Merchandising and Digital Retail programs have had a long and mutually-beneficial relationship. Since Target employs over 6,000 people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area across 47 stores, we are naturally strong partners. Target has supported the UNT programs through the lead sponsorship of the annual Consumer Experience Symposium, classroom case study competitions and at the annual Career Expos held each fall on campus. Additionally, they have held a seat on the Merchandising Board of Governors (BOG). “We have recruited extensively from UNT because their students bring incredible ideas and enthusiasm for the retail business.” says Catherine Helm, a District Team Leader in the DFW area and the current BOG member.

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with Catherine and get her thoughts about Target’s renovation investments and view of the customer.

Linda Mihalick: Since the DFW stores are some of the oldest in the chain, we’re excited that 28 will be renovated here this year. Closest to us include Denton, Flower Mound, Grapevine and Lewisville that are scheduled to be completed just before the holidays. How were these first stores chosen?

North Texas is an extremely important market for Target and all of us are excited that we get to roll out these changes in the Dallas and Fort Worth areas. We are heavily invested in these communities and the teams that we support in DFW, so modernizing our stores here will enable future growth and excite our guests in a new way.

LM: We hear a trend for leading retailers about ‘gathering’ spaces. Tell us how this idea will come to life as part of these re-imagined Target stores.

I believe our new layout is more welcoming than ever.  We’ve added a lot of convenience for our guests to make a quick Target run, but we’ve also added in many elements that make the experience more experiential and enhance the sense of community. There are more exciting things to discover, as our local product selection is growing every week, and we have expanded and enhanced many of the Starbucks locations within our stores, if you want to catch up with some friends before completing your shopping list.

LM: Okay, let’s talk merchandise. What is Target’s viewpoint on the whole idea of ‘story-telling’ that many innovative retailers are using to try and grab their customer’s imaginations?

Providing inspiration has definitely been a key focus for these remodels.  We are excited to welcome our guests in to experience both the products that they’ve always loved and many new products and brands that will be rolling out this year in a whole new way. By updating fixtures, mannequins and lighting, we are enhancing our ability to showcase apparel and décor, helping guests experience the merchandise in a way that makes it easy to shop entire outfits or statements for their homes.

LM: So we’ve heard some of the renovated Targets, including the one at Cityview in Ft. Worth, will actually have two entrances.  What’s that all about?

We know how important convenience and flexibility is to our guests, and that there are times when you just need to pop in for a few things. To that end, we will be adding an additional entrance to some of our stores designed to make it easy to quickly stop in and pick up an online order or grab a quick lunch and then easily check out. 

LM: You know we have the only Digital Retailing degree, right here at UNT and love all things digital.  What is Target doing, particularly in these new store formats, that integrates the mobile and digital experiences for customers?

In addition to enhancing our stores, Target is at the same time focused on improving our digital offerings. Our website is better than ever and constantly being enhanced to provide an easy shopping experience. More of our products are available for order pick up, where you can complete your order online and within an hour, it will be waiting at the guest service desk for you to pick up.  The physical layout of the new remodel also enhances our ability to provide fast and easy service with Order Pick-Up.  Our Cartwheel app is being integrated into our Target app, making it easier than ever to find amazing deals on the items you were browsing for.

Linda Mihalick leads the Digital Retailing degree program at the University of North Texas in Denton. She is also the senior director of the Global Digital Retailing Research Center, based at UNT. 



Posted by Linda Mihalick on: 
Oct 4 2017