retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal reports that “after more than two years of being outdistanced by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. said ... it is coming out with guns blazing, planning to prove it is the low-price leader and offers better quality than its larger rival.

However, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel also said that Target will “"maintain our focus on fashion, design and a superior store experience.” And Kathryn Tesija, executive vice president of merchandising, said that Target grew market share in 2009 and has “plans in place to accelerate that trend in 2010.”

Analysts point to an improved private brand program as part of Target’s improving appeal, and suggest that Walmart could stall out a bit because its core shopper base is being hardest hit by the recession, while Target will appeal to a broader consumer demographic with more refined tastes and a little more money, though they are unwilling to trade up to more expensive stores.
KC's View:
Listen ... I understand that Target needs to go after Walmart. (Though the other day it was suggested that it might best do so by evoking Costco.) And I understand that its management probably has a bit of a chip on its shoulder because Walmart gets significantly more credit for low prices than Target.

But that’s because Walmart has a simple message that it repeats over and over. There is nothing oblique about its message. Nothing too cute.

And Target hasn’t gotten that down yet. And to be honest - and this is based on limited exposure, because I can’t go everywhere - I do not think that there is the kind of marked difference between Target’s best stores and Walmart’s best stores that Target seems to believe there is. I could be wrong about this...but that is my impression.