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Target locks in on domestics

Target is shaking up its domestics department — shrinking the runs given to individual labels in order to show more businesses overall.

At the same time, Target's new spring set provides a prominent on-the-racetrack introduction for the chain's exclusive new bedding line from the Simply Shabby Chic collection. The discounter also has exploded its Bella brand into additional product categories and pulled offerings under the Home private label more to the fore.

Seeded into the assortment is the Home Premiere bedding and bath captive brand, Royal Legacy by Martex in bedding and bath, Swell by Cynthia Rowley in a variety of impulse categories, and a seasonal in-and-out program for spring called Aloha Summer, which runs across multiple non-core categories.

In one of the department's more significant shifts, Waverly Garden Room has been plucked from its dominant position along the entirety of the domestics department's back wall. More tightly edited assortments of Waverly product are now woven into individual category sections.

The new set rolled out across most of the chain last week and debuted at 25 new units Target opened the weekend of March 6. The new Bethel unit also incorporates other forward-looking Target initiatives the company has been testing in newer boxes: significantly broader selections of food and consumables toward the front of the store, entertainment-related products, and mother and baby goods.

In another notable change, price points on endcaps were called out more aggressively, with larger signage. The endcap mix in Bethel pushed Target's twin merchandising agendas — expect more/pay less.

Exemplifying the former was a 360-count cotton Luxury Sheet Set fitting bed pockets up to 17 inches saled at $45 on king and queen from a regular price of $59.99. The sets were assembled in Pakistan from fabric woven in Bahrain. The most sharply priced "pay less" type of endcap offering consisted of two-piece towel sets featuring licensed cartoon characters. The sets, from supplier Jay Franco, were priced at $8.99 and produced in El Salvador.

Up and down the aisles, Target is making more of an effort to emphasize choices within classifications rather than merchandising brands as lifestyle collections across a range of product categories.

The domestics department's elongated back wall best represents the change in philosophy. Half of the run is given over to vertical presentations of coordinating slipcovers, toss pillows, neck rolls, floor pillows and throws. Each is segmented by label: Home, Simply Shabby Chic and Waverly.

The other half of the run gives 17 feet to Home solid color towels, 13 feet to Bella solid color towels, 10 feet to Manor Collection bed-in-a-bag with coordinating valences and pillows, 5 feet to Cotton Luxury bed-in-a-bag with coordinating dec pillows and 8 feet to Studio Space bed-in-a-bag with coordinating valences, dec pillows and rugs.

In another new introduction, Target has added soft home to its Kids Restore & Restyle room accents. Textiles offerings included sheet sets, comforters, quilt sets, throws, dec pillows, rugs and window panels. They were cross-merchandised in vertical presentations with coordinating wall borders, shelves, lamps, knobs, wall pegs, clocks, mirrors and nite-lites.

Having dramatically overhauled the domestics area, Target's greatest challenge now will be managing so many businesses. The matter becomes particularly acute as Target continues to turn up the gas on in-house product development. In-stocks have habitually run thin at the chain, a problem Target has addressed over the past two years by opening more regional and import-only distribution centers.

While executives have insisted for several quarters that in-stock positions have improved across the store, the state of Bethel's domestics department seven days after its grand opening suggests that ensuring in-stocks on fast-turning consumables is taking its toll elsewhere. The featured Simply Shabby Chic gondola run of bedding was almost literally picked clean when HTT visited on a Saturday afternoon. And in Bella bath, the shelving under two towel skus offered peel-off "rain check" tickets bearing each item's bar code.

Target has unleashed a brightly painted pony in home. Now it has to prove it can stay in the saddle.

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