Sunday, May 31, 2009

What can WE do for YOU?

Today's Sunday NY Times had a great ad in the front section that is such a sign of the times - not the "bad economic times" you hear about everywhere, but the consumer-controlled times.

It went like this:

Tell us what more we can do for you.

We're always looking for new ways to bring you more for less. Have a suggestion for making your Target experience even better? We're all ears.

E-mail us at and we'll get back to you shortly

{Target logo}

It's been true for many years that consumers are more in charge than ever. But I loved this ad because Target had the guts to actually state it out loud. Can you ever remember a time (for those Canadians out there) when the Bay or Eaton's would run an ad like that in a paper with millions of readers? Not a chance. I can barely remember a time when I called either department store and actually got a human on the phone in whatever department I was calling.

And Nordstrom became world famous, or at least famous in business schools for their customer-centric manifesto, "The Nordstrom Way" - which now seems so old hat and commonplace. Everyone's heard the story about the woman who brought back the snow tires, but Nordy's doesn't sell snow tires... they gave her a refund anyway.

Our expectations have certainly changed. I am going to try a little experiment and send Target an e-mail, then see if I get a response. Maybe I'll ask for longer store hours, or a latte machine with freebies for early morning weekend shoppers. Or maybe something more beneficial to others like a "Target makes a difference" donation box for clothing or household goods for people who have lost their jobs/homes, whereby shoppers who donate get a credit to spend that day in the store. I'll keep you posted. You may want to try the same thing and share any results you get.


  1. ** Great post, TST! Target's motivation, in my view, is a direct response to whispers about its long-term survival in the face of recent national stories about an unstable balance sheet and turmoil involving activist shareholders vs. its board. Earlier this month, Dow Jones posted the following story that offers strong clues about what's behind that NY Times ad:

    "NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Target Corp. (TGT) has started matching the prices of competitors in three parts of the country in a pilot program that could go nationwide by fall. The effort furthers Target's attempt to gain traction against competitors, especially Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), which has had its own price matching program in place for sometime and has been soundly beating Target on the sales front.

    "Target launched its "Price Match Pilot Program" this spring to "reinforce the fact we are speaking more boldly about low prices," spokeswoman Delia McLinden said. ....The program "is going really well," McLinden said. "People are surprised to see Target doing something like this." Target had been downplaying its role as a discounter in favor of being thought of as more of a fashion destination than Wal-Mart before the recession began.

    "But buying clothing, even at low costs from known designers, has taken a back seat to purchasing food and other consumables -- and Target's ads have been putting more emphasis on low prices and household goods.

    "The pilot price matching program comes as Target has shown drops in monthly same-store sales since last June. "Wal-Mart's comparable store-sales have beaten Target's 17 months in a row as Wal-Mart aggressively stepped up its low cost message, through price cuts and greater advertising." (END OF STORY).

    ** In my view, Target finds itself in an unusual place given its sylish image during the past decade. Shareholder activists have complained about that image, noting that Target is "not Gucci," inferring that during a recession, its balance sheets should not be adversely impacted compared to competing retailers, holding the belief that Target's eye on quality and low prices means its performance should be near "recession proof" like Wal-Mart.

    ** Whatever the constellation of reasons for Target's decision to place that ad in the NY Times, it should be lauded for its outreach to address the "elephant in the room." I wait with great anticipation for the results of your e-mail "test."

  2. I had to laugh about the snow tire story... I heard that one too, but the store in question was The Bay! Canadian vs. American urban myth?