business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a piece the other day about Target's continuing troubles, which prompted a number of emails.

One MNB reader wrote:

I read with interest todays story about Target sales, especially the statement that was made that, "Grocery sales continue to be a tough slog for the retailer."  It reminded me of a piece you had back on November 21 from Target's Mark Tritton.  In it, the statement was made that, ""We're doing more sampling (of food). It creates a high level of engagement."

At the time, I thought, "We're heading into the Christmas season, and this is the only strategy that Target has for selling more groceries?"  Well, my wife and I happened to be in a Target store shortly after that and we did notice that there were a few sampling stations in the grocery department.  We were prepared to be "engaged."  However, not one of the people in the stations offered us a sample of anything.  We even walked by a couple of them multiple times as I wanted to see if we would be offered anything and we were not. 

Maybe this is part of the problem that Target is having selling groceries.  They just don't seem to get it.  Gone are the days when Target seemed to be a magical store with a great selection and great prices.  You didn't even need to look at an ad, you went to Target knowing you were going to get a great price.

Having associated with Target people in my past, I always thought that they seemed to have a bit of an air of arrogance.  Maybe it was justified as Target was a leader at the time.  However, that has changed, at least in my opinion.  I get the feeling that Target thought that all they had to do was put groceries on the shelf and customers would beat a path.

I don't have a solution for Target.  If I did, I would apply for a job there.  However, if nothing else, they need to take a look at their competition.  If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Target needs to imitate.  Nothing wrong with copying what the competition is doing, especially when you are still considered the new kid on the block when it comes to selling groceries.  Walk before you run.  Assortment, price and a positive shopping experience is all it has ever taken to attract me to a store.  Maybe there are others that have the same criteria.

MNB reader Kristie L. Allen had some thoughts about Target's concerns about cannibalization of store sales by online sales:

Cannibalization is such a silo term, a blame term … an excuse for not seeing something sooner than your competitor.

Customer needs change & evolve.  Your Target article shows people moving from in-store to digital (OR new customers using digital that weren’t able to make it into the store).  Don’t think of this as robbing the store of business.  Instead think about maintaining the business that was perfectly willing to click to a different retailer if there was no digital alternative.

Would they rather have 90% of the basket or 0%?

Excellent point.

Another MNB reader wrote:

When discussing Target sales trends, I continue to hear former patrons of Target state they quit shopping Target because of Target's recent positions on social issues- specifically restrooms.

Don't underestimate the power of public positions (both positive and negative) taken by retailers who are so bold to take a stance - especially a stance that stands counter to the vast majority of the population.

Just for the record, we need to define "vast majority."

Politico reported several months ago on a survey saying that "nearly half—46 percent—said transgender people should be required to use the bathroom corresponding with their birth gender, while 41 percent said they should be able to use the restroom bearing the gender with which they identify. The results are largely split along lines of party, ideology, region, and gender."

So it isn't exactly vast. It is, however, split down the middle ... and I think it is entirely fair to say that companies have to be careful about what they say and do when it comes to cultural issues. Sometimes you do what you think is right, and it can backfire.

MNB reader Gerry Buckles wrote:

No mention that Target’s “progressive” stance on who can use what bathroom might have had an impact on their foot traffic? Kind of like Colin Kaepernick’s antics had no impact on the NFL ratings.

Hmmm, what to do when political correctness is actually the reason something is not going well?………. I know…. Pretend it’s something else. There! Fixed!

Was that what I was doing?
KC's View: