Target's CEO is visiting customers' homes to succeed where Walmart failed

Target is doubling down on efforts to woo urban city dwellers.

Target CEO Brian Cornell and other top executives are travelling to major cities across the country to visit customers in their homes and learn more about how they shop, live, and consume.

“Not long ago, when you thought about that Target guest, you had this picture in mind,” Target CEO Brian Cornell told the Minnesota Economic Club on Wednesday, according to St. Paul Pioneer Press. “It was that suburban housewife. She had a minivan. She was a soccer mum.”

But that core shopper “has profoundly changed over the past couple of years,” he said.

That’s why Cornell and other executives are visiting the homes of young single women and Hispanic mums in various cities.

CityTargetFlickr/SelbeA CityTarget located in Seattle, Washington.

By focusing on urban markets, Target is going after a demographic that Walmart failed to capture with its smaller-format Walmart Express stores.

Walmart announced last week it would be closing all 102 of its Express stores. The urban-based stores, like Target’s smaller-format stores, carry a mix of general merchandise and grocery items in a fraction of the square footage of a regular Walmart store.

The Walmart Express stores were ultimately unable to successfully compete with nearby dollar stores and other convenience stores.

“While we have learned a lot from this pilot, including a deeper understanding of the everyday needs of our customers, we have decided not to proceed with this offering,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a release. “We feel we can better serve our customers by focusing on Supercenters and Neighbourhood Markets and by investing in ecommerce and services like Pickup.”

Target started opening smaller-format stores two years ago in more than a dozen cities across the US including Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, San Diego, and Minneapolis.

The company initially branded the smaller-format stores as Target Express and CityTarget, but has since renamed the stores “Target.” The company said the name change wouldn’t impact its growth strategy for the smaller stores.

“We’re committed as ever to our urban growth strategy, developing stores specially designed for densely populated areas,” Target said in a blog post in August.

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