Over the last several quarters, Target Corporation, the number 2 American mass-retailer, has been a notable newsmaker. In 2012, the company celebrated its 50th anniversary. Then, in 2013, amid great fanfare, the retailer embarked on its first international foray as it entered the Canadian market. Also in 2013, a massive data breach left thousands of (customer) credit card accounts vulnerable. Lukewarm reception in Canada combined with customer concerns over data security to abruptly dampen the retailer’s prospects.
A change at the CEO level ensued in 2014. In early 2015, a decision to shutter the international expansion plan amid dire profitability projections surprised many retail analysts. Massive layoffs from the Canadian operations, followed up with additional layoffs in the US operations, would continue to keep Target in the news headlines.
The shine seemingly has come off the once highly vaunted Tar-jhay.
On May 1, 1962, The Dalton Company, headquartered in Minneapolis, MN, would parlay their expertise in department store retailing into a new format, and opened the very first Target store (source: corporate.target.com). Combining high quality merchandise with low prices, Target was dead-set on “elevating the shopping experience” (source: aBullseyeview.com).
Target, store facade/front entrance (circa 1960s) (source: abullseyeview.com)
Continual incremental improvements with each successive wave of new store openings, along with an evolving product mix, would help distinguish Target from its mass-merchant rivals.
Target, store facade/front entrance, 8601 Brewerton Road, Cicero, New York
Over its first half-century, Target would progressively expand from its mid-western base to gain a national presence across the continental United States. In concert with Wal-mart and Kmart, Target helped drive the superstore model, which largely consisted of opening large footprint (100,000 sq ft+) retail stores in overwhelmingly car-dependent suburban locations.
Wal-mart, front view, 1299 North Brightleaf Boulevard, Smithfield, North Carolina
Big Kmart, front 3/4 view, 2803 Brewerton Road, Mattydale, New York
Target, front 3/4 view, 21800 Towne Center Drive, Watertown, New York
In fact, the typical general merchandise prototypical Target store tips the scales at 135,000 sq. ft. (source: bloomberg.com, pressroom.target.com). Large, imposing, massive, squat, the big-box retail format is almost generic and relatively interchangeable.
However, Target injects some design flair and whimsical subjectivity into the mundane.
Target (circa 2015), front 3/4 view, 1055 St-Laurent Boulevard, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Building geometry is linear, with long wall surfaces, and widely varying levels of articulation within the façade from location to location.
Target, Aerial view, 30333 Southfield Road, Southfield, Michigan (source: maps.google.com)
Target, front view, 30333 Southfield Road, Southfield, Michigan (source: maps.google.com)
Additionally, the building elevations are quite opaque resulting in limited visibility into the store, especially along the side and rear walls.
Target, Aerial view, 900 East Kemper Road, Springdale, Ohio (source: maps.google.com)
Target, front 3/4 view, 900 East Kemper Road, Springdale, Ohio (source: maps.google.com)
Target, right side/receiving area 3/4 view, 900 East Kemper Road, Springdale, Ohio (source: maps.google.com)
Nonetheless, the entrance is clearly demarcated with an abundance of glazing lending a bright and light ambiance.
Located off-center, the ingress/egress point is generally framed with a projecting canopy, which provides cover from the elements for guests and also affords a horizontal plane into which to cleanly terminate the entrance glazing.
Target, front entrance, Champlain Centre, Plattsburg, New York
Parapet variation is heavily dependent on the level of articulation, working in tandem with elevation setbacks and projections, thus augmenting the effects into the vertical plane.
Trending towards a palette of beige, brown and tan colours for the building proper, Target often proposes horizontal banding within the same palette, as well as splashes of red as an accent.
Target, front 3/4 view, Champlain Centre, Plattsburg, New York
Although the various stores differ in size, Target also assigns different monikers to their store formats to differentiate the offerings. Target stores offer the brand’s mainstays, while SuperTarget offers that much and an expanded selection of grocery and fresh produce. Target Greatland was also used in the past but has been since discontinued (source: wikipedia.org). However, the PFresh initiative, tested in 2008, has resulted in approximately 1,100 Target stores also offering a wide breadth of fresh foods (produce, deli, meats) (source: pressroom.target.com, bizjourals.com, retailingtoday.com).
Target stores populate suburban strip malls and power centers as stand-alone buildings or ganged in-line with other tenants sharing demising walls.
Target, front view, 3112 Vestal Parkway East, Binghamton, New York (source: maps.google.com)
Target, front view, 519 Gateway Drive, Brooklyn, New York (source: maps.google.com)
Although less prevalent, Target stores also serve as enclosed mall anchors complete with exterior frontage, and alternatively as mall tenants with limited explicit brand identity.
Target, front view, Coral Ridge Mall, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Target, 139 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, New York (source: maps.google.com)
Target’s established store model, which encompasses large format stand-alone, strip and enclosed mall stores, has allowed the brand to spread its distinctive approach to mass retailing to scores of consumers. However, the suburban skewed development approach left a specific sub-segment of the US population, central city residents, fundamentally under-served.
Starting to slowly counteract the devastating effects of the 1960’s flight to the suburbs, which resulted in the hollowing out of many city centers, numerous cities across the United States have been witnessing a rise in urban populations of late. Empty nesters, young professionals, and students, wishing to live closer to downtown amenities, services and mass-transit facilities, have contributed to a return to city centers. In several cases, urban populations have grown large enough to attract the attention of suburban-centric retailers.
Although Target does possess experience in modifying its prototypical format to fit in with local restrictions, zoning, design and site particularities, locating stores into the downtown would require a fundamentally different approach than simple thematic variation.
Target, front 3/4 view, 115 Spectrum Center Drive, Irvine, California (source: maps.google.com)
Target, front view, 715 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne, Colorado (source: maps.google.com)
Target, front 3/4 view, 750 Hilldale Way, Madison, Wisconsin (source: maps.google.com)
Target, front view, 3601 North Freeway Boulevard, Sacramento, California (source: maps.google.com)
Target, front view, 4500 Veterans Memorial Boulevard, Metarie, Louisiana (source: maps.google.com)
Denser, typically multi-storey, mostly devoid of large expanses of surface parking, and located in the downtown core, the newer urban store format is being marketed as CityTarget. At 80,000 to 100,00 sq. ft., the CityTarget is generally smaller than its suburban counterparts (source: nextcity.org). Nonetheless, the CityTarget being proposed for Boston, MA should measure in at 160,000 sq. ft. (source: nextcity.org). Clearly, the smaller designation is not an absolute conclusion as the new format offers significant design flexibility and ability to respond to local market demands.
CityTarget, front 3/4 view, 1 South State Street, Chicago, Illinois (source: maps.google.com)
Purely from an aesthetic viewpoint, moving into downtown locations, where streets or alleyways abut each building face, requires that all elevations engage with the street activity. In such instances, there are fewer blank sides, which can be hidden from view or screened with trees like in suburbia.
CityTarget, front 3/4 view, 1415 2nd Avenue (at Pike St), Seattle, Washington
CityTarget, side view down alleyway, 1415 2nd Avenue (at Pike St), Seattle, Washington
Windows onto the street, window displays, sightlines from inside/outside and human/street scaled elements make the CityTarget stores inherently less bland and opaque.
CityTarget, front view 3/4 view, left side, 939 SW Morrison Street, Portland, Oregon
CityTarget, front view, 939 SW Morrison Street, Portland, Oregon
CityTarget, front 3/4 view, right side, 939 SW Morrison Street, Portland, Oregon
Thus, the customary suburban model, with one dominant front façade, and 3 or more mostly blank perimeter walls along the sides, rear and receiving dock area which functions well in lower density suburbs is impractical in the dense urban environment.
Target, 4000 McCain Boulevard, North Little Rock, Arkansas (source: maps.google.com)
CityTarget stores need to be weaved into the older/established urban fabric. Instances such as occupying ground floor retail space (podium) of a mixed-use project, or converting former spaces into a CityTarget store demonstrate how the retailer can integrate into the live/work mantra of dense urban areas.
CityTarget, front 3/4 view, 1415 2nd Avenue (at Pike St), Seattle, Washington
Akin to a neighbourhood coffee shop, restaurant, bakery, food store or specialty retailer, the CityTarget must invariably, like other retailers, make attempts to immerse the store into the existing urban fabric.
Broadcast Coffee, front view, 1623 Bellevue Avenue, Seattle, Washington
The North Face, front 3/4 view, 1202 NW Davis Street, Portland, Oregon
Scale, spatial relationships, materials, and colours need to be complementary to those of the neighbouring constructions, as well as reflect the regional vernacular. As such, the palette of brand colours is generally toned down or cast aside so as to integrate into the local tableau. Nonetheless, the red accent colour, typeface and Target logo help identify the brand.
The lessons learned and feedback gathered in the implementation of the CityTarget model would be applied to the smallest and newest Target concept store. A fraction of the typical suburban superstore, the first TargetExpress iteration measures in at 20,000 sq. ft. (source: bloomberg.com, corporate.target.com). Destined to fill retail micro-sites, this new prototype is essentially sized like a small neighbourhood food store or pharmacy.
Located in the Dinkytown neighbourhood of St. Paul, MN, near the University of Minnesota and within minutes of Target’s corporate headquarters, the first TargetExpress opened in August 2014 (source: corporate.target.com). Capitalizing on the varsity affiliation, the new store draws from a substantial university student pool that forms a semi-captive audience with limited vehicle availability and access to suburbs.
Broadly functioning as an overgrown convenience store with suburban prices, TargetExpress condenses the suburban offerings into a smaller format, offering a pharmacy, as well as grocery, meat, deli, dairy, and a host of other grab-and-go items (source: corporate.target.com). Tailored to the local clientele, the TargetExpress also features staple items, necessities and the essentials for stylish urban living.
TargetExpress, front 3/4 view, 1329 5th Street SE, Minneapolis, Minnesota (source: maps.google.com)
Located at the street/first floor level (podium), with street/sidewalk frontage, the TargetExpress design encourages a relationship with the street through multiple window openings, furthering inward/outward visibility, and adding visual interest to the exterior elevations. Building articulation and material variation further adds to the level of interest.
TargetExpress, front view, 1329 5th Street SE, Minneapolis, Minnesota (source: maps.google.com)
Again, design issues relating to scale, adjacencies, materials and colours come to light as the TargetExpress instinctively melds into the urban fabric, and becomes complementary to the residences above the podium level. A defined corner entrance with judicious signage and limited use of brand colours results in a cohesive whole that suggests an integrated planning as opposed to an ad hoc design.
TargetExpress, side view, 1329 5th Street SE, Minneapolis, Minnesota (source: maps.google.com)
Plainly, Target was aware that few, if any cues from their sprawling suburban design aesthetic, or architectural identity could be transplanted downtown verbatim.
5-Shrinking the box
Although some might argue that the suburban model is far from having reached its zenith, the recent moves by big-box retailer Target might bear witness to the limits of growth of the business model.
Target, front entrance (circa 2015), 1055 St-Laurent Boulevard, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Target’s retrenchment in Canada after just a few years may serve as the inflection point of big-box dominance. Ironically, the eventual decision to shut down operations in Canada cited the need to focus on expanding the smaller store format in the United States as a factor (source: fortune.com). In fact, the preponderance of new Target stores planned for 2015 are urban formats (1 CityTarget, 8 TargetExpress, 6 Target stores) (source: bloomberg.com, abullseyeview.com).
Target Store opening map USA 2015 (source: ABullseyeView.com)
Scaling back on suburban growth and re-adjusting the focus towards rising urban populations will yield a dynamic new architectural identity and design language to rival its established suburban model. In the not-too-distant future, Target could ultimately produce different cognitive models/mental images for urban dwellers and suburbanites.
Target, Aerial 3/4 front view, 115 Spectrum Center Drive, Irvine, California (source: maps.google.com)
Target, front 3/4 view, 4000 McCain Boulevard, North Little Rock, Arkansas (source: maps.google.com)
Target, front 3/4 view, 1598 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, New York (source: maps.google.com)
As such, the need to merge and manage multiple models as Target forges into new territory will surely tax the brand image and resilience.
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