BOSTON (AP) — Target is going local.
The liquor section in its new Boston store features locally-brewed Samuel Adams beer. The "Fan Central" area stocks Red Sox and Patriot gear. And a special section highlights the products used to make the local favorite peanut butter-and-marshmallow sandwich called fluffernutter.
The store that's near Fenway Park is part of Target's effort to tailor merchandise to local preferences. In addition to the Boston store, Target is testing this strategy in 10 Chicago stores, with hopes to eventually expand chain-wide.
Localization is not new. It's common for fast food chains to add dishes to appeal to local tastes. (Think: McDonald's lobster rolls in New England.) And clothing chains like Macy's carry fashions to appeal to local styles.
Target's strategy is part of an effort to boost sales. The retailer, once known for its cheap but chic fashions and home decor, lost customers during the recession after focusing too much on expanding everyday grocery items like milk.
The retailer has since focused on adding trendier merchandise, and began stocking organic, gluten-free and other healthier foods. It's also investing in technology to speed up online deliveries. So far, Target's business is rebounding: It posted four straight quarters of increases in sales at stores that have been open for at least a year, an important retail measure.
Target's localization strategy is seeing successes, too. At the Chicago stores where Target sells local craft beers, bistro tables and two-burner grills for apartment living, sales are higher than in the rest of the market. And at the Boston store, "Fan Central" is a top sales performer compared with other shops that sell fan merchandise across the chain.
Brian Cornell, who became CEO about a year ago, spoke to The Associated Press at the Boston store:
Why is this store unique?
It's a great example of localized marketing, localized assortment. It's bringing those pieces together so it feels like a local community. Some of the marketing material where we really captured the essence of Fenway Park, a bull's eye made up of bats and balls, and then, obviously, great local assortment of merchandize that tells our guests we understand we're in their hometown.
That combination really is for us inspiration as we think about future stores, and future localization.
Why tailor merchandise to locals?
We've got to appeal to that local customer. While the Target brand is iconic, we want to make sure we're relevant in those local communities. When we can really take it across the country, there's significant upside. We have some catch up to play, but we're committed that we do catch up.
What's the future of big-box stores?
This store here in Boston, the Fenway store, is a great example that big stores still play a really relevant role. This is 160,000 square feet. And the guests love what we've done here. They love the breadth of categories and assortment. So there's going to be an important role for full-size stores.