Target Is Upping Its Fashion Game With A New "Brand-Focused" Strategy

At a time when fashion is in a state of flux, we're looking to the industry's next generation of influencers as a guiding light. This New York Fashion Week, Refinery29's Future of American Fashion series is highlighting the designers, brands, and retailers we're betting on big. The future starts here.
When news broke that Target was upping its fashion game and launching four new brands this fall, people online were, well, excited. Comments on Refinery29’s Facebook ranged from “Dying over the workout clothes!” to “Cause I didn't already spend enough at Target.” But the Minnesota-based retailer had way more up its sleeve. The new launches of women’s line A New Day, men’s collection Goodfellow & Co., active offering JoyLab, and home label Project 62 were just the beginning of a two-year unveiling of at least 12 Target brands. Yes, twelve.

The Need For Speed

“Our business is about speed, and we wanted to see how can we get Target guests inside,” says the company’s executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, Mark Tritton, decked head-to-toe in Goodfellow & Co., who joined Target from Nordstrom in June 2016. “Let’s have a big master plan with a cadence for the guests that’s absorbable, but let’s move!” That Tritton has been able to do so much in little over a year speaks to the “newness” that he wants to capture in his stores. “There will be more frequency and flow; the joy of discovery will be there, and we're keeping that constant,” he says.
Tritton is betting that the number of Americans who already hit a Target store will increase with its new “brand-focused” strategy — the company estimates that 30 million people step inside its doors and 55 million shop online a week. “85% of all Americans already take a trip to a Target store, so if you have wonderful inspiration, they’re going to see that and that’s a huge upside opportunity for us,” he says.

In With The New

In with these new brands that focus on niche offerings means out with the old, i.e. heritage lines like Mossimo and Merona. “The opportunity to curate and really meet guests and their demographic needs [is very important], so let’s just say I’m going to open a store in New York, am I going to sell more [by] putting in a Project 62 aesthetic with A New Day and Goodfellow than I would putting in a Merona and Threshold? [They] are really relevant [brands] but might be more of a suburban market.” Tritton also cites the success of kids’ line Cat & Jack, which launched in July 2016 and replaced labels like Cherokee as fuel for his new strategy: It generated $2 billion in revenue in its first year. This coincides with Target chief executive Brian Cornell’s $7 billion turnaround plan, which was delineated in February. As of August, sales at stores open at least one year increased 1.3%, and online sales were up 32%, on top of 16% growth in the second quarter of 2016. To boot, net sales were $16.4 billion, up 1.6% from 2016.

Telling A Story

But product alone isn’t the only thing that’s going to beat out Amazon and Walmart — it’s storytelling. Understanding that the old world order of bringing product in, marking it down, and seeing what happens, no longer works in this tough retail environment. Tritton says it’s about a “360 ecosystem” now. “A guest is pre-shopping online, coming into a store to experience more, posting that on social, and inspiring other people — we’re learning from that,” he explains. Promotion on Instagram for Goodfellow & Co. and A New Day has already started— the former just happens to feature a rogue-ish Kit Harrington lookalike (perhaps capitalizing on the recent Game of Thrones finale). “We’re launching this with a fantastic campaign that talks about the sum of the parts, it’s really about how to style and integrate [these clothes] into your lifestyle,” says Tritton, referencing collaborations with style site WhoWhatWear.
Still, at the end of the day, it's through the clothes (and home goods) that Target continues its quest for total domination. “We’re being bold,” says Tritton. “But great Americana style — it’s not that complicated.”
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