Target Marketing

Target is intriguing.

In my childhood, it was the exciting version of Walmart. As an adult, it was a one-stop shop with diapers and personal beauty products. I occasionally browsed, but usually bought what I needed, lamented that our society has to offer 50 different kinds of toothpaste and went on my way. I enjoyed going for the colors, but did little else.

Target has developed a new store layout it will gradually implement in tester stores throughout the country. Target’s website improved and offers free shipping with a lower minimum purchase. The retailer collaborated with big names so we all feel we are getting a piece of Lily Pulitzer, improved in-store pick up options, and in some places will bring your items to your car. Overall, Target is working to adapt to the trends and preferences of people shopping the market.

One such trend is the movement of purchasing items closer to the maker. Rather than a product made in Bangledesh, purchased by the supplier who negotiated with Target corporate, who then ships to their warehouse, then to their stores, people are buying direct from the maker at Farmer’s Markets or local craft fairs like the First Friday Street Faire in Modesto. In these environments, you talk to the maker, can learn their techniques, you can special order. You pay more, because this is the person’s livelihood and it takes a lot more money to live in Modesto than Bangladesh.

Now Target, doing their good work of staying relevant, is offering global goods. The press release:

“As part of Target’s celebration of global style, we’ve also partnered with online marketplace Accompany to bring our guests Accompany Us to Target—a limited-edition assortment of products from six different countries. Among them? Ecuadorian beaded bangles, block printed cosmetic bags made in India, and wooden Kuni bowls from Kenya. It’ll be available at 12 of our stores and, while supplies last.”

Its products are sourced from Accompany, a fair trade company. The fair trade label matters. It assures the purchaser that those who make are receiving a just compensation. Looking online, the items are much pricier than the usual Target faire. Too much? Threshold is still out there, labeling items like a hand carved bird for $15.

This is brilliant marketing. You see the news release or Apartment Therapy’s glowing review of what you “have to buy right this minute.” You are at Target buying wash clothes because IKEA is too far away and you see a gold elephant and a hand carved bird and they certainly look global. “$15, hmm, well, it’s more than I would normally pay for something like this, but it’s hand carved. It’s probably supporting someone across the world. I like it. I’ll get it.”

But you didn’t buy the fair trade product made in Kenya sourced by Accompany. You bought Target’s brand, Threshold, an item whose history we do not know because there are no photographs of its maker on the website like there are for the $18 key ring and $98 tote.

You did not buy the key ring or the tote but bought the bird. Now, to support the local community you go to the First Friday Street Faire. The hand carved bird is now $30 there. You speak with the artist, admire his work, but it is too much and you just bought something similar for less. More likely you will return to Target to shop and just enjoy browsing at the street faire.

Target is doing what a business should do. It is trying to make a profit, staying relevant, giving the people what they want. But it comes at a cost. India’s throw maker may receive a just wage, but I wonder about those other items. If this bird went through at least four hands before reaching yours, what did the maker receive? And just because $1 a day will get them by in that remote-from-us country, is it right that $1 a day is all we pay?

It’s just stuff I think about, on my way to buying more cotton balls.

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