Target Hits Homes With New Catalog

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Target Corp. launched a home furnishings catalog this spring as part of a broader strategy to make its stores and Web site a shopping destination for furniture, rugs and other items for the home.


The Minneapolis-based multichannel big-box retailer distributed more than 13 million copies of the 52-page catalog. Along with mailing to homes nationwide, the book was handed out last week at an event held by Target in New York City that coincided with the International Contemporary Furniture Fair.


The Open House, as it was billed, took place inside a tent Target erected and that was divided into five prefabricated mini-houses decorated with Target merchandise. Each mini-house represented one of five assortments available in stores: modern, casual, classic, contemporary and global. The catalog is similarly divided into sections for each of these assortments.


The event resembled other recent "pop-up" stores opened by Target for limited periods of time around Manhattan to promote a particular brand or event. The closest Target store is in Brooklyn.


An online version of the catalog is available at www.Target.com. The catalog is intended "to reinforce our new positioning" as a home decor destination, Target Stores president Gregg Steinhafel said during the company's first-quarter earnings conference call May 12. The site averages 50,000 hits weekly.


Nearly every spread in the catalog informs shoppers to "Shop in-store or online at Target.com." The catalog does not provide a mail-order form or a toll-free number.


Through May 28, shoppers at Target's Web site are being offered an incentive to make home decor purchases with the retailer. Target is giving free shipping on select furniture, home and home decor items. Along with being flagged on the Target.com home page, the offer is being promoted via e-mail blasts.


Items in the catalog are priced from $1.99 to $299.99. The selection includes designer lines such as Isaac Mizrahi Home, Michael Graves Design and Swell by Cynthia Rowley & Ilene Rosenzweig as well as brand names Fieldcrest, Woolrich and California Closets.


With this catalog, Target becomes the second big-box retailer to test the direct mail waters in the past six months. Late last year, Wal-Mart mailed fliers in several large markets that have no Wal-Mart store, including New York, Chicago, Baltimore, San Francisco and Boston. The fliers promoted specials available only online or by calling a toll-free number.


Because last year was the first time Wal-Mart offered online specials for the Thanksgiving weekend, the fliers' goal was "to inform customers who don't have easy accessibility to a Wal-Mart store that they can easily shop Wal-Mart through Walmart.com," spokeswoman Amy Colella said at the time.


In contrast with the stores, which experienced slower foot traffic and sales compared with Thanksgiving weeks in previous years, Walmart.com had "a very successful Thanksgiving Day and week online," she said. The company plans to evaluate the direct mailer's performance and consider repeating the program.


Unlike Wal-Mart, which has limited direct mail experience, Target Corp. has been here before. Until last spring, the company mailed five catalogs: Signals, I Love A Deal and three Marshall Field's books. It discontinued four of the five and sold Signals, as well as a dormant title, Wireless, to Universal Screen Arts Inc. in April 2004. At that time, a source familiar with the deal said Target wanted to focus on its Internet operations.


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