Target refreshes brands to stay chic and relevant

Kavita Kumar
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Minneapolis — When clothing brands such as Merona and Mossimo helped propel Target Corp. to new heights in the 1990s and early 2000s, an H&M was not in every mall.

Online subscription services such as Stitch Fix were not yet on the horizon.

Amazon sold mostly books.

And department stores and shopping malls were still humming along instead of facing steep declines in sales and traffic.

As Target confronts the quickly changing landscape — one in which Amazon is poised this year to surpass Macy’s as the biggest apparel seller in the U.S. — the Minneapolis-based retailer is making dramatic changes to its lineup of goods. It is saying goodbye to well-known brands such as Merona and Mossimo and introducing new labels in an effort to not only make the retailer more relevant in the face of newer competition but also to pick up market share from those chains that are struggling.

“The guest is changing,” Mark Tritton, Target’s chief merchandising officer, said during a walk-through of the new brands at the retailer’s Minneapolis headquarters. “They’re not going to the malls. They’re looking for fresh ideas. And they’re not as wedded to those old brands that they used to know and love.”

Over the next 18 months, Target will launch more than a dozen new brands, four of which begin hitting stores in coming weeks. They will be accompanied by a “More in Store” marketing campaign that will feature TV and print ads, a big direct mail piece and an increased digital investment that includes tapping into social media.

The new product offerings are a linchpin of Target’s plan to revive sales, which have been sliding for a year. Target is spending $7 billion over the next three years in a top-to-bottom makeover that includes everything from remodeling stores to overhauling its supply chain.

Some analysts wonder if it will be enough as Amazon and Walmart make big bets in the online space. But Target executives say they are already seeing initial efforts pay off and announced last month that sales have begun to rebound.

Last year, Target parted ways with children’s apparel labels Cherokee and Circo and replaced them with Cat & Jack, an in-house brand that has been growing by double digits and just hit $2 billion in sales in its first year.

Building on that success, it now will phase out billion-dollar brands Merona and Mossimo over the next year.

In their place, Target is introducing A New Day, a more stylish women’s line featuring new pieces every month, instead of quarterly as with the older brands. Target is hoping the change, which brings it more in line with some of its competitors, will drive more frequent trips to see new merchandise.

The brand, aimed at a woman who shops at places like J. Crew and Zara, was designed to provide value-conscious shoppers with more versatile pieces for their wardrobe.

Target also is trying to make the men’s department more of a destination. Right now, the biggest sellers are socks and underwear, while elsewhere the men’s apparel category has been growing, Tritton said.

The retailer hopes to gain a share of that growth with its new Goodfellow & Co. brand — the name a nod to the department store in downtown Minneapolis that launched the Dayton family’s retail empire and eventually Target.

In addition to being more fashionable, Goodfellow clothes have been created with attention to how they feel and fit, offering several styles in pants.

A New Day and Goodfellow will be followed up with other women’s and men’s brands that also will have more distinct personalities than those being retired, which executives said had become too broad and, in the process, stale.

Target also saw an opening in the market for JoyLab, a new fashion-focused athleisure line aimed at a younger customer than the Lululemon crowd. Target decided to create a new brand for it rather than making it part of C9, another major Target athletic brand.

Target also is adding new brands to meet emerging trends in the market that were missing in its current assortment. For example, this fall it will debut a modern home-decor brand called Project 62, named after the year Target was founded during the mid-century modern movement.

Project 62 offers a lower-priced option for those looking for sleek, Scandinavian-type designs found at places such as West Elm and Design Within Reach. The brand also is designed with smaller, more urban living spaces in mind — think nesting tables that slide under one another and ottomans with storage built into them.

A shift back to focusing on the “Expect More” part of Target’s brand promise in apparel and home goods is smart because it drives differentiation and is the most profitable part of its business, said Leon Nicholas with Kantar Retail.

In recent years, Target has gotten somewhat distracted by trying to leverage groceries and household essentials as a way to drive traffic to the store, he said.

“This is Target re-embracing its DNA,” he said. “This takes them out of the game of competing directly against Amazon, and it drives excitement and energy into the store again in a way that consumables cannot.”

Brand rollout

Target is launching four new brands, the first major wave of more than a dozen new labels over the next 18 months.

A New Day: This new women’s apparel brand will introduce fresh pieces every month to lure shoppers back more often. In stores Aug. 27

Goodfellow & Co.: Menswear will see Target’s biggest overhaul, moving away from staples and more into stylish pieces. In stores Aug. 27.

Project 62: A modern, space-conscious home brand is designed for those living in tighter urban settings. In stores Sept. 19

JoyLab: Target is hoping active young women will be drawn to its new fashion-oriented athletic brand. In stores Oct. 1