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Target Hits the Spot

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, May 16, 2005

With the launch this FALL of the Thomas O'Brien collection, Target brings the home furnishings industry closer to the excitement provoking level that fast-fashion retailer H&M is doing in the mass market in apparel.

The Swedish apparel specialty retailer virtually stood global retailing on its ear last fall with the one-time fashion infusion of a collection by couture designer Karl Lagerfeld.

With his H&M collection, Lagerfeld, the successor to the legendary fashion icon Coco Chanel, caused traffic-stopping lines at stores around the world as consumers flocked to grab his designs at mere fractions of the designer's couture prices. And it looks like it didn't hurt his main business one whit.

As a follow-up, H&M will launch another one-shot designer program — Gucci Group's Stella McCartney — which also will afford the retailer vast promotional advantages as well as stimulating its fashion-savvy quotient.

What Target is doing with Thomas O'Brien who has a long-time collection of furniture with high-end supplier Hickory Chair as well as lighting from Visual Lighting and home textiles from Area — both also at the high end — is to fill the gap in its five major lifestyle segments for the home.

When Target launched the Isaac Mizrahi home collection in February as the designer brand for contemporary, it had filled all but the soft modern lifestyle topped with a designer name. O'Brien fills that slot with his Vintage Modern collection.

And Target is no slouch when it comes to attracting attention — both to its logo as well as its designer brands.

Who can forget its debut invasion of Chicagoland with every billboard in sight carrying the bright red logo, and the local airways being commandeered by Target introductory advertising.

While not as concentrated, the O'Brien announcement has the same effect in attention grabbing since it is timed for maximum impact with the International Contemporary Furniture Fair.

Another difference between H&M and Target is that Target's game plan is long term, rather than one-shot, which requires yet a different discipline. Whether these designer nameplates have the desired long-term pull to head up each of the lifestyles is still to be seen.

But at least they are doing something to excite customers — I can't bear to call someone paying money for something a “guest” — that most of the rest of the retailing community has never learned to do.

On another note, management should understand that nothing in this world can be kept secret. The buzz was out long ago, and if the business newspapers are excluded from previews for competitive reasons, most competitors read The New York Times.

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