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It’s Game On For Target As Holidays Near

Target is on a tear.

In advance of the holidays CEO Brian Cornell has thrown down the gauntlet with a wide range of retail initiatives, suggesting perhaps that the discount chain is No. 2 but trying harder.

Most immediately, Target has targeted additional retailers with its price-match program, and began rolling out the coveted Apple Watch line to its stores.

Effective this month, the company extended its pricematch guarantee to include items it sells online and well as in-store; doubled the timeframe for a price adjustment to two weeks; and added 24 competitors to its policy, including and the e-commerce sites of Costco, GameStop, Office Depot, Sam’s Club, Sears and Staples. (It began price-matching Amazon and the websites of Best Buy, Walmart and Toys “R” Us three years ago.)

Separately, Target began selling Apple Watch at select Target stores this week, making it the third chain after Apple and Best Buy to carry the smart watch. An expanded assortment of 20 models in both 38mm and 42mm sizes will be available at beginning Oct. 18, and select models will be in all stores by Oct. 25.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, 25 test stores are being tapped as crucibles for the company’s 50 most innovative new concepts. The enhancements will fall into two major categories, the chain said: presentation and service. The former will include a more modern sales floor with updated fixtures, fully-outfitted vignettes and helpful signs, and a front-of-the store remodel to showcase new products and trends.

On the service side, shoppers will find highly-trained in-store consultants within the cosmetics and baby departments, and a “digital advisor” who can assist customers with Target’s mobile applications and in-store and curbside pickups of online orders.

The retailer will also embed select SKUs with radiofrequency identification [RFID] chips to help staffers track down misplaced products.

Target said the test, dubbed LA25, will incorporate both new concepts and existing pilots. The latter include a recent trial of wireless beacons, which use small Bluetooth transmitters to send location-based information to customers’ mobile devices in-store.

“The chance to test them all in a single market environment will help us see which elements work best together,” the retailer said, and the best-performing combinations will be applied to future store prototypes and design plans.

The initiative, along with a recent connected-home concept store in San Francisco (see TWICE, July 20); a recruitment drive for retail services start-ups; and even a possible test of in-store robots, reflects CEO Cornell’s focus on digitally-integrated, cross-channel shopping and other future-proofing projects to fend off e-commerce competition.

But speaking last month at the company’s Fall National Meeting, Cornell acknowledged that digital initiatives have distracted him from some of the core retail skill sets that also require attention, like out-of-stock merchandise and frozen cash registers, AP reported.

“I owe each of you an apology,” he told the 13,000 sales associates in attendance. “I didn’t spend enough time in retail fundamentals.”

Meanwhile, construction for the first wave of LA25 tests and remodels is scheduled to begin in a few weeks, to be followed by a second-wave launch in the spring, Target said.