Sunday, April 2, 2023

Scoring A Bullseye With Shoppers

Remember the feeling of stopping at an outdated bathroom on the road–the kind where you got a key attached to a big plastic key ring and you had to walk to the back of the building to find the bathroom?

And you never knew what you were going to find once you got in there, but nine times out of ten it wasn’t good.

That’s the kind of feeling I often get when shopping in America these days. The message now is when shopping for food or blenders or boxers you deserve to feel about as welcome and special as you do in an old gas station bathroom.

Case in point: My husband and I went into a deep discount store in Florida recently and it felt as if we had come in at the tail end of a war. And I’m not being a haughty, spoiled American. Nor am I exaggerating. It was a mess. It was dirty and understocked and understaffed and depressing. Items littered the floor. The one line stretched all the way to the back. The floor looked as if it hadn’t been washed in weeks. That’s obviously not true of every store in this chain, but just our experience there.

“Don’t ever put me through that again,” my husband said when we left. And I got it. He doesn’t do any of the family shopping so he doesn’t see what it’s like out there in post-pandemic America.

Target stores are the antidote to this depressing truth because they were designed to make a shopper feel special when they’re there. We just feel fancy. Fancy is nice because life should be nice.

So, I’m thrilled that Target is coming to town. You all deserve it. You deserve to cruise down a clean aisle with gleaming floors pushing a cart beneath nice lighting. You deserve to be in a tidy, well-organized store that conjures up positive emotions while you’re shopping.

There’s fun in going into a nice store and coming out with something you never planned to buy–a bow tie for your dog or a red throw for your couch. And yeah, I know, it’s just too easy to spend a lot of money there, so we’re all going to have to show some restraint this fall when they’re slated to open their doors next to Wegman’s in the former K-Mart building. (I predict thousands of local wives will be hiding their Target receipts in an old cookie jar in the kitchen.)

The truth is people love Target because they have good products that are competitively priced. They offer a unique selection that’s on trend and well-assorted.

“This is especially true in the home and apparel categories where they have created brands with popular celebrities or brought in one-time-only deliveries from well known designers,” says Sonia Parekh, a retail consultant who was quoted for an article on Target’s popularity. “You may be on the way to buy Band-aids, but if you walk by a beautiful selection of home decor, it’s hard not to stop.”

Parekh says other mass merchants have not been able to replicate this strategy, even though they’ve tried. “It seems like an easy thing to do, but it requires top design and merchandising talent — which is not easy to find, and even harder to hire,” she adds.

My daughter and grandsons live very near a Target in Florida. And they all love the store, especially my ten-year-old grandson who runs to the art supply and the toy sections.

One day, we drove by the store when he was about six, and this little, sympathetic voice from the backseat said, “Mimi? Don’t you wish you lived near a Target?”

He was the first person I called when I heard Target was coming to town.

I’m not one who engages in retail therapy very often. I’m too prone to guilt. But when I do go a little crazy, I like to spend my extra dollars in a place that has made some effort to attract my business.

The best news of all is that management at Target says they are going to offer competitive salaries and health insurance to their employees at their Jamestown location. Any corporation that treats their employees like they matter has my vote and my dollars.

My husband hopes not too many of my dollars, though. I may have to start a Target support group for us over-enthusiastic fans.

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