Target offers an exciting opportunity to test and learn

Do words mean anything? In the age of all-marketing, all-the-time, I wonder.

So we learn in the Strib’s Sunday Business section that Target Corp., which we tend to associate with big suburban Target stores and even bigger SuperTarget stores, is experimenting with smaller stores “even smaller than the CityTarget stores the retailer began introducing more than two years ago.”

That’s exciting news, in the sense that the words “exciting” and “news” have lost most of the meaning they might have borne a generation ago. But the part that made me want to laugh or cry (still mulling which) was the big fourth paragraph, which imparted thusly:

“This is an exciting opportunity to test and learn as we continue exploring new ways to meet our guests’ needs,” John Griffith, executive vice president of property development, said in a statement posted on the company’s blog Friday.

I must be drinking too much coffee or something but I laughed/cried about it all day. We have been frequently reminded, as a result of the unfortunate cybersecurity snafu over recent days, that Target has no “customers,” only “guests.” I’m not sure what was so bad about the old word, “customer,” to describe those who go into stores to buy things in exchange for money. It wasn’t exactly an insult or anything. The “store” was in “business.” I was a “customer.” I got that. But it must have become sooo 20th century.

I do get that in the age of all-marketing all-the-time, which includes related newly manufactured words like “branding” and “imaging,” that a particular business (I’m sure I’m not supposed to say “business”) would prefer that I think of them as the kind of business that thinks of me as its “guest” and it as my “host” (except that until recently one of the main things about “hospitality” was that the “host” didn’t charge the “guest” money for stuff).

But let’s move on to what an “exciting opportunity” the “CityTarget” stores are (is it rude to still call them “stores?”) to “test and learn as [Target] continues exploring new ways to meet our guests’ needs.” Really, how many ways are there to avoid saying that we are talking about a “business” that operates “stores” where they have stuff for sale, to “customers,” for “money”?

Oh dear. Now the softie in me feels kinda sorry for this executive vice president (who, for all we know, may not have either said or written the silly quote, since all we are really told is that it was attributed to him on a company blog) for making such fun of a paragraph that only does what is done all the time. Sorry. But I do value straight talk, and I fear it is almost entirely disappearing from at least the realms of business and politics.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/20/2014 - 04:33 pm.

    Testing and learning

    Hmmm. Haven’t there already been small grocery and department stores in urban areas before? Is it impolite to point out that most of those small stores were driven out of business (i.e., they were, or became, financial failures) by larger suburban stores like… um… Target? I can’t help but wonder what’s to learn here.

    Will people patronize a store that’s downstairs and around the corner rather than drive 5 miles to another, larger store? I’m guessing they will, even if store executives persist in the pretentious fiction that they’re “guests,” at least ’til the novelty of convenience wears off. Meanwhile, Target execs will have to figure out a new metric to use to measure store success that goes beyond “sales per store,” since a half-sized Target with little or no private parking area can’t be expected to match the sales figures per store from a suburban SuperTarget.

    This might prove to be an interesting “testing” and “learning” experiment to observe.

  2. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 01/20/2014 - 07:56 pm.

    Customers are always right. . .

    but guests are suffered only as long as they follow the host’s rules and do as they’re told.

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/21/2014 - 09:36 am.


    the MiniTargets are in high population density areas where most of their target population lives within walking distance then it might work.
    Their advantage would be in offering a subset of their usual stock tailored to the location at the same prices as their regular store — something that the ‘mom and pop’ stores can’t match.

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