The king of conservative retail, Target Corp, just had a rare sighting… a failure? While Target might not be the most conservative retailer out there they certainly wouldn’t be considered a big risk taker. In fact, just two years ago Target announced they were taking the huge leap into “international” retailing. If you are keeping track that was a full 20 years after Wal-Mart opened its first international store, Mexico City, Mexico, in 1991! Well, we are still waiting for the Target Canada stores to open in March/April 2013 but Target’s recent partnership with Neiman Marcus has officially been deemed a failure. See Time’s recent article titled Epic Retail Fail: Where Did the Target + Neiman Marcus Collection Go Wrong?
For the better part of the last decade I had focused my career on driving innovation for Best Buy, a Fortune 100 retailer, and the undeniable king in the consumer electronics category. When I joined the company I was focused on identifying innovative products and services that were specifically tailored for the needs of their newly identified customer segments. I then joined a team where we focused on creating new concept and prototype stores and lead the team responsible for the Escape concept store in Chicago. Eventually we shut down our two concept stores and I worked to reshape the team into an internal capability that could deliver new prototype stores (i.e. Best Buy Mobile), new retail models (i.e. Best Buy Express), and identify new growth product and service categories (i.e. Personal Transportation, Home Energy Management, and Health & Fitness).
Almost nine years ago I had reentered the retail business after a fourteen year hiatus. The company I joined was just beginning a zealous journey to focus on the customer. The entire organization was determined to be more “customer centric” in every decision they made. They had gone so far as to identify six demographic target profiles that they were going to cater to. The goal was to get intimately familiar with each of these customer segments so that we could offer them the “best” and most appropriate goods and services. Some of those goods and services were already available but we were not aware of which customers needed them or why. In other circumstances we needed to be more innovative and seek out or create new products or service offerings. As we sought to delight the customer, we assumed that they would reciprocate by buying more or at least more profitable goods and services.
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