Missing the Target

Jennifer Negley, March 19, 2001

Those of you keeping track of the roster of proprietary brand programs rolling out across retail land know that Target's new Waverly Garden Home program has arrived on the floor, technically at least.

Walking through a Target store last week in Charlotte, NC, nine days after the program's official set date, I have to say it was ... underwhelming. Not the product, mind you. It's a pretty smart-looking assortment. The bedding consisted of five floral print design collections, each featuring a reversible comforter, two sheet sets, coordinating bed skirts, shams, over-sized pillowcases, valences, wall borders and three coordinating bed pillows.

What disappointed was the lack of razzmatazz given to the introduction by the one retailer that does razzmatazz better than anybody. Point of comparison: the arrival of Target's Moschino licensed apparel and footwear was getting the full-court press, heralded across both departments even in areas where there wasn't any Moschino product beneath the signage.

The new Springs-produced Waverly bedding, by contrast, was plunked on the shelf with little fanfare. Grant you, a good deal of the program-which includes several other licensees-was not yet in place. The towels, table linens, dec pillows, tableware, glassware and rugs that are to be part of the program were not in evidence. Bath accessories were available for only one collection. A handful of window skus were tossed unceremoniously among Target's regular assortment.

Considering Waverly's stature in the home textiles kingdom, the subdued introduction comes as a bit of a surprise. Three years ago, the Michael Graves debut received more fussy treatment with a scantier number of skus-but then again, the program also required signage explaining to Target customers why this Graves fellow was so important.

One could make the argument that Waverly Garden Home deserves the same degree of cultivation. Despite what the retailer's sensational marketing implies about the sophistication of its customer base, the average Target shopper looking to outfit a bed is more likely to do her comparison shopping at Kohl's or JCPenney than one of the better linen channels where Waverly has a presence.

This pricing of the Waverly line certainly acknowledges this. Compared to the captive Royal Legacy by Martex program introduced 10 months ago. Waverly Garden Home hits more cost-conscious price points. A consumer will pay roughly $255 to put together a queen Waverly bed ensemble-$134 less than her cost for the queen Martex ensemble.

Even though the Waverly installment is still a work in progress, one wonders why Target is not taking the opportunity to bang the drum now that it's filtering onto the floor. It can only build anticipation for the boatloads of product yet to arrive.

Target, marketer par excellence, can surely whip up a smart in-store program that defines the importance and positioning of Waverly and Martex-to the benefit of both vendors and the retailer. With two strong licensed programs now in its stable, it would be a pity to give them short shrift.

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