by Max Brantley
This Business Week cover story is of interest as Black Friday approaches.
Is the stylish discounter Target aping its larger rival, Arkansas-based Walmart, with heavier emphasis on low prices and groceries? Is it changing its corporate identity in desperation?
Little Rockers who welcomed Target as anchor to revitalization of University Avenue might now wonder if completion will bring only a discount city where University Mall once stood. From the article:
Now the charge is that Target is copying its archrival, and its executives are bristling. They insist they provide a superior store experience. Nor have they any plans to abandon their 15-year-old slogan: "Expect more, pay less." "We're not trying to be anyone else," says Chief Executive Gregg W. Steinhafel. "We're working hard to convey both sides of our brand."
All the same, a kind of role reversal is under way in Retail Land. Wal-Mart has long borrowed from Target. Now Target is stalking Wal-Mart. Target's magic has always been about pushing its low-cost business model relentlessly upmarket. But to get itself through the Great Recession, it appears to be going downmarket. Some critics say the strategy smacks of desperation. Others, pointing to a rebounding stock price and better-than-expected earnings last quarter, believe the strategy may be working. The challenge for Steinhafel is to compete on price without losing the Target twist.