Target to unroll more new store layouts - will it be a hit or miss?

Target has consistently hit the bulls eye with consumers by offering its chic yet cheap merchandise in reliable, easy-to-navigate stores. Whether shoppers are looking for a tank top or a tire repair kit, they almost always know where to find what they're looking for when they enter the store. But, in the coming year, the retail chain will be doing quite a bit of remodeling, begging the question: Why mess with success?

In an interview with WalletPop, Target spokeswoman Sarah Baken said the company currently has more than 40 different, "unique" multi-level floor plans in place and they're not afraid to create more. "It's whatever makes the most sense for the space," said Baken noting that not every project can be a big, flat square. Baken said she thinks, Target's ability to "flex our store design" is one of the retailer's strong suits. "A guest should always be able to enter a Target store and get the right feel."

Target plans to change the layout of 340 existing stores that are slated to add "P-Fresh" or "Prototype Fresh" sections devoted to offering fresh produce and meat. The renovations will include a variety of new store layouts and experiences, from Super Targets to those designed for urban spaces. It will also mean some changes for the beauty, home, shoe and video/electronics departments, says Kyle Thompson, a Target spokesman. "We're changing how we are speaking to our guests, so they're really interacting more [with the products]," he said.

Yet, the new layouts and P-Fresh departments may also come at a cost to shoppers. "Something has to be cut out, and something will disappear," said Andrew McQuilkin, president of the Retail Design Institute and Retail Market Leader for BHDP Architecture in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Will customers notice the layout changes, or more importantly, care? McQuilkin predicts that customers will only get annoyed, "if they need to re-learn how to shop the store." He continued, "especially the male consumers, they hate that, they just want to get in and get out, they are on a buying mission."

"However," said McQuilkin, "if they're only moving departments by 12-feet, 16-feet or 30-feet, [consumers] will probably not react negatively." California consumer, Leslie Lait who has already seen a P-Fresh department appear at her local Target said, "it doesn't bother me, or excite hasn't changed that much at our Target." Admittedly, however, Lait was not pining for a produce section.

In a conference call in May, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel said that general merchandise stores that adopted the P-Fresh model this year have already seen "gains in cross-shopping between edibles and the rest of the store."

"Target's so good at presentation," said McQuilkin, who noted the store's vertical, "billboard"-style approach to stocking merchandise as something that makes the store more visually appealing than other discount retailers, "I'd be excited to see how they're going to do lettuce differently, stock oranges differently...I'm hoping there's some surprise and delight in how they're going to visually present and display the [new product offering]".

Think baskets and open-fronted refrigeration cases. Thompson said the new layout is "wide open" so consumers can easily find and shop for what they need. "This is a well thought out plan...we want the best shopping experience for our guests before, during and especially after renovation," he said.

Will we see all of the general merchandise stores eventually converting to the P-Fresh model? Thompson wouldn't commit. He did reveal, however, "Food is a large initiative for us...these remodels are a part of our large investment for 2010 and beyond."
Read Full Story