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Digiday reports on how Target is making so-called direct-to-consumer brands a centerpiece of its retailing strategy, offering in its stores formerly online-only brands such as Casper mattresses, Harry’s shaving supplies and Quip toothbrushes.

The story notes that such brands “all have an aesthetic instantly recognizable by online shoppers — or really anyone who has experienced targeted ads on social media. They claim also to offer better versions of everyday products at cheaper prices than customers are used to finding in stores. They have established customers, and troves of first-party customer data thanks to the direct-to-consumer launch strategy.”

All of which makes these brands enormously attractive to Target.

And - go figure - makes Target attractive to these brands. “As the cost to advertise on Facebook and Google climbs and online growth slows, digital brands need new retail outlets to both increase brand awareness and drive customer acquisition,” the story says.

Plus, Target has something else: money. These brands “need an influx of cash,” which Target delivered, for example, when it invested $70 million in Casper in 2017.

In cases like Quip toothbrushes that have a subscription component - after one buys the toothbrush, one can sign up to get a new brush head and battery every three months - Target has struck deals that get get it a piece of the subscription action.

Simon Enever, the CEO and co-founder of Quip, explains the attraction this way:

“Retailers are looking to innovate. They themselves have their online presences, they understand movement in the industry around the convenience and value of online brands for customers and how close a relationship you can build. So Target was wanting to innovate around the changing dynamic of retail. It’s never been a painful discussion, but there are many details to iron out how that works. This hasn’t necessarily been done before, and we’re a business and they’re a business, so new things are being tried. We’re going to keep trying to get the balance right and at the core of it, it’s about creating the best experience.”
KC's View:
In its own way, this is in keeping with Target’s long time cheap chic image - offering cool brands with a very specific kind of consumer appeal. And, it does so by offering those brands something they can use - distribution, exposure and a connection with a brand that increasingly seems to matter.