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Aiming high

It's time once again to talk about Target.

Yes, we all know they're in the forefront of a retail campaign to have suppliers pay for everything that retailers are supposed to pay for.

And yes, it definitely is doing the price stuff that brings it to the same competitive level of the others. Why not? It is being judged on the same basis as its peers.

But at the same time that it is putting the screws to its suppliers, it is continuing to expand on the differentiation that separates it in consumers' minds from Wal-Mart, Kmart and the legions of wanna-bes on the retail landscape.

This is a business that obviously sets aside promotional dollars as an investment in its future.

Witness recent full-page ads in The New York Times, a paper which reaches consumers that Target would like to have — and may have in the not to distant future — but doesn't have today.

Let's look at a couple of recent ads — stuff that the highfalutin guys who are native to New York haven't even considered.

The first was a full-page, full-color Sunday Times ad with its signature dog mascot holding a sign saying Target.com and Amazon.com, now arriving together on your doorstep. It was followed by another full-page, full-color ad with the same winsome dog offering free shipping on any purchase of $75 or more. Not a bad deal. This in a metro market where it has zero penetration of stores. It says there is an investment in the market for the future.

Let's now move to the consumer publications that range from The New York Times' supplement to upper-end magazines.

We now see inserts — tear-out sections with that red circle and dot subtly shown on the upper-right-hand corner talking about "The Inn Thing" — that treat readers to a bevy of home furnishings products from nifty-gifties to practical, how-to-party-at-holiday-time ideas.

There's an obvious marketing strategy behind all of this. And it sure beats the hour sale, the coupons and the low-ball pricing attempts to bring a more affluent customer into its universe — i.e., the stores and website.

Maybe that winsome pooch will soften the vendor community's disdain for the company's operational tactics as it adds another level of consumer.

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