Monday, April 27, 2009

I Hate Target

I went by Target today because, although disillusioned long ago, I'm still fascinated by marketing and store design and when it comes to these things, particularly class position marketing, Target is the best of the best.

First you have to understand Target makes not the least pretense at reaching the straight male market segment, so my presence there is pretty alien, both for them and for me. I put on my NASA approved containment suit and forged ahead though, in the interest of science.

Target does an amazing thing. They make a living selling consumer goods and household products to women who consider themselves slightly better than Walmart. They have a men's clothing department, but that's only because, shopping for husbands and sons, women actually purchase more men's clothes than men.

Target walks a pretty fine line though, because their customers actually prefer the same brands offered at Walmart and Kroger, so Target has to offer them in the same price range. Since they don't have Walmart's volume, they're probably making less profit on these products than Walmart, even though they sell them for a few cents more. They also have higher per foot real estate costs because they put their stores in locations slightly more visible than Walmart.

To make up the difference, they add a few premium sections to the store. They can't have a premium clothing section because women are pretty particular about where they buy their clothes and the market segment they're going for wants their work and dress clothes to come from boutiques rather than mass marketers. They may be mass market boutiques, but let's not split hairs.

I think Target generates a lot of their profit from their confections, coffee, furniture, and linens sections. The one I went to even had a Starbucks at the front of the store, which is interesting because the Walmart down the street has a Subway in the same spot. When it comes to class marketing, Subway vs Starbucks pretty much tells the whole story.

You could never have a Target for men. Most men simply aren't as attuned to the fine striations of class as women are. Not all men are immune to this type of marketing, but usually the stores who market to men that way are much smaller and locally owned and usually restricted just to clothing. People who try class marketing in typically male stores like hardware or electronics usually fail. They're still out there though, but their customer base is pretty small.

The only stores that have much consistent luck at class marketing to men are some brands of automobiles and sometimes Apple computers. At Lowes or BestBuy though, they actually shun class marketing because they know it could drive many of their customers away, regardless of their income.

Although I recognize class and all it's machinations in human society, I tend to think it's bullshit, so I usually think of class marketing as a fine, seven-layer, serving of bullshit too. One day, I think people will come to realize that all these folks who serve them by observing class distinctions are really manipulating them and there'll be some sort of backlash against it. Until then, I'll visit stores like Target occasionally, just fascinated to see what these people are up to now.

3 comments:

Sandi said...

It's the Dillard's of the cheap stores.
Still, I'm glad I don't live in a town with a big box store. Yet.

Nicole Bradshaw said...

My name is Nicole, and I am a Target addict. I have bought SO MUCH baby stuff there.

Thing is, I used to shop at Wal-Mart. That is, until they ran me off with the long, loooong waits in line and their half-dead selection of "fresh" produce. (Not to mention all that bad press they got a few years back about how they treated their employees.)

A. Boyd C. said...

From everything I read, it's a much better job than doing the same thing at Walmart. The people I saw seemed happier. I hate to say it, but they seemed a tick or two smarter too.