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Target gives it the old college try with new registry

June 18, 2014

Promotions focused on kids going off to college (and their parents) are nothing new or unusual for retailers selling the wide range of products needed for dorm life and the classroom. What's new, at least for Target, is the college registry concept, now in beta test with the chain.

A piece on the retailer's A Bullseye View website explains, "Once reserved for the soon-to-be-married and soon-to-be-parents, college-bound students can now use Target's college registry to score everything from futons and flip flops to extra-long twin sheets and stylish storage solutions."

Family and friends will be able to go online and add products from Target directly to the student's registry. According to a piece on TheStreet website, Target will use iPads in stores to replace kiosks, traditionally used for registries. The retailer will also lend iPod Touches to customers so they can scan items and add them to their registries as they walk through stores.

Further, Target is promoting its Subscription Service, which enables consumers to have products delivered on a recurring basis, as "a modern day twist on the classic college care package," so kids can regularly receive items such toothpaste and laundry detergent.


Discussion Questions:

Will Target's college registry catch on? What do you think of the potential of its subscription service specifically designed for the college market?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Will Target's college registry or subscription service offer it the greatest potential for return?


It's nice to see Target extending the gift registry application to an additional life-stage. The addition of the subscription service is compelling, and could potentially be a much bigger deal. Recurring orders are certainly a growth area for retailers and brands, with the benefit of not relying solely on store visit frequency.

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Matt Schmitt, President, Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer, Reflect

If anything, Target is late on this one (just ask Bed Bath & Beyond). It does point out the need to develop more "life cycle event" registries, as well as Target's need to move faster.

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Dick Seesel, Principal, Retailing In Focus LLC

I think the registry is a good idea, especially if they order in the home store and pick up in the store near the college they are attending. Ive seen this concept at Bed Bath & Beyond, and it makes perfect sense. What's a hidden gem is the subscription service. Not only is it good for Target, but it makes sure the money isn't spent on beer!

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Robert DiPietro, SVP Energy Services and New Ventures, Homeserve

Having put one child through college and with another there now, I can see students and their families going online to buy the basics for college and then picking them up or having them delivered to school. I can also see recurring shipments of basic supplies. The Red Card shipping is free, and Target carries a wide variety of merchandise. So, Target may be on to something.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

Target is trying to decide which targets it should be focusing on. Its college registry will probably catch on but it has limited appeal. The same might be said for its subscription service since it is designed for a specific audience.

These are fine programs but by themselves they are like opium for underachievers, which Target has become. I suggest that Target compliment these two programs with other modern-day programs for additional audiences that can restore more excitement and sales to Target's tomorrow.

Gene Hoffman, President/CEO, Corporate Strategies International

Certainly a convenient way to wish a niece/nephew or granddaughter/grandson well as they head off to college. This service, however, has a limited scale, as it's unlikely to capture the imagination of friends and relatives who have their own children to educate.

Potential, perhaps, for the fundraising needs of a deserving/needy fellow student who might be headed on to college, and who classmates recognize needs some support.

Still a useful promotional tool to bring college-bound students to Target doors. Target excels at bringing these back-to-college students in during the July-September time frame.

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Roger Saunders, Global Managing Director, Prosper Business Development

If I were a major retailer with a gift registry, here is what I would say: "Why didn't I think of that?"

Great idea from Target, and I'm sure that other retailers who cater to the college market and have a gift registry program will follow suit.

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Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC

Target's efforts remind me of the recent three major horse races. Target is like those many horses who are entered in the race and have no chance of winning. In this case, Target is going to be late crossing the finish line. The winner again will probably be The Container Store. Their college program has been a winner from the first time out the gate.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

It might be a good vehicle for grandparents. Like most new ideas, it will gain some short-term traction. The test will be 2 years down the road. While not a bad idea, it won't take the place of blocking and tackling.

Target is famous for trendy efforts like free trade coffee, but not paying enough attention to internet security and their internal cyber security. These things only become tough if new programs cannibalize the support of existing programs and systems. A dollar saved on internet security can cost millions! Target knows this and I would hope they have learned their lesson.

Amazon has had special programs for students for a couple of years. I would think that Amazon's ability to supply books, food, dorm furniture, small appliances, etc. would put them in a position to bury Target in a matter of minutes.

Ed Dennis, Sales, Dennis Enterprises

Great idea, really. Clearly one of those "why didn't i think of that?" things, but especially since Target has the brand panache for college students. IKEA would be smart to create one as well. Between the two, a student would never have to leave the dorm...just kidding....

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Lee Peterson, EVP Brand, Strategy & Design, WD Partners

Good move for Target, aligns well for core consumers. Going to college is a major life change for high schoolers, associated with the great first step to more independent living. Target has many of the on-trend items that appeal to this group and their families, as well as the dorm-room staples they will need throughout the year. This group loves online shopping, the registry and recommendations will drive selection, and keeps everyone involved in selecting the "right" choices for this very particular group of young people. A subscription service makes it easy to provide the necessities and a few treats on a timely basis.

Anne Bieler, Sr. Associate, Packaging and Technology Integrated Solutions

They are a little late to market with this concept, but as there is no clear leader, I think they will do well. Given the pervasiveness of helicopter parents, I would expect they will continue to have a need to hover over their college-age children which this service may satiate.

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Larry Negrich, Director, Business Development, TXT Retail

Good idea. It is about time that retailers started embracing major life events other than marriage and new additions, and this is directly targeted at a specific segment. That said, I think the subscription service is at least as good an idea as I am sure both parents and students will appreciate dispensing with the concern of ongoing shopping for mundane products.

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Alexander Rink, CEO, 360pi

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