Target Corp. Acts to Prevent Showrooming

Target Corp. has reportedly demanded exclusivity from its suppliers when it comes to some of the chain’s best-selling products. According to an article in Internet Retailer, the chain feels undercut by e-retailers offering the same products for less money. Exclusivity would mean that if you want that sleek Michael Graves Tea Kettle, the only place you’ll find it will be at a Target store or on

It’s understandable that Target wants to avoid turning its brick-and-mortar stores into showrooms for Amazon. But some amount of showrooming seems inevitable. Social Commerce Today predicts that brick-and-mortar stores will increasingly become “product showrooms for prodding and poking purchase options.”

Demanding some level of exclusivity from suppliers seems like a smart move. Why get into a price war with Amazon (this is the company that ruthlessly promoted its Price Check app over the holiday season and that doesn’t have any of the costs of running brick-and-mortar stores) when you can sell well-designed, affordable products Amazon simply doesn’t have?

Another move in the direction of exclusivity is the company’s recent announcement that it will open The Shops on May 6. These designer boutiques will offer exclusive product lines inspired by the likes of Boston’s Polkadog Bakery and Connecticut-based Privet House.

But exclusivity will only go so far. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Target would have exclusive access to the Apple iPod touch or Philips HDTVs. Customers are going to showroom. They’ll come, try out these products, and then comparison shop online. Even Target’s 8 million Facebook fans will continue to comparison shop via the Internet and their smartphones. According to Internet Retailer, Target acknowledges this, citing “consumers’ increasing use of technology” as the reason it’s asking suppliers for price and product improvements.

In my opinion, Target is smart to focus on exclusivity. If you draw me into the store with an exclusive designer kettle, I would be inclined to buy some reasonably priced Nike golf balls for my uncle’s birthday and also stock up on napkins and cotton swabs. I’ll comparison shop for big purchases like a TV, but $1.99 for 300 Target-brand cotton swabs works for me.



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