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CSNews Gets Inside Look at TargetExpress

MINNEAPOLIS – At first glance, Target Corp.’s first TargetExpress store, which opened Wednesday to the public, looks like a miniature version of the company’s large-format locations.

But upon closer inspection, while many components of larger Target locations are definitely main staples of the new store, TargetExpress also offers a host of different features.

Most apparent at the store -– located on the University of Minnesota campus at 1329 5th St. SE in the Dinkytown section of Minneapolis –- is Target's attempt to honor the local community, as opposed to the more uniform look maintained by most of its larger stores.

Immediately upon walking in, customers are greeted with a large “Target Loves Dinkytown” sign (featuring a heart instead of the word love) created by Ross Bruggink, an alumnus of the school. Assorted University of Minnesota gear for sale is within clear sight as well. 

Once getting past the college aisle, TargetExpress further separates itself from its larger counterparts. The 20,000-square-foot store delves into its convenience aspect by offering snacks, energy shots, candy and a wide variety of carbonated soft drinks and bottled waters.

An array of grab-and-go sandwiches, fresh fruit, beverages and dairy products is also available in the rear of the rectangular-shaped store, which is located at the base of an apartment complex and across the street from multiple dwellings currently under construction.

Calling TargetExpress a direct competitor to convenience stores, however, may be a bit of a stretch. Unlike many c-stores, TargetExpress does not offer made-to-order foodservice items, nor does it have beverage fountains or freshly brewed coffee, as several larger Target stores do.

Karl Anderson, store manager of TargetExpress, told CSNews Online that Target considered offering such services for college students on tight schedules, but the retailer decided against doing so because it would simply take up too much space in the store.

Also of note, lottery services and tobacco products are not available, unlike at many c-stores.

“Everything is a reflection of feedback we received. Many of our larger stores have 76,000 SKUs, while this store has 16,000 SKUs,” said Anderson, a nine-year veteran of Minneapolis-based Target. “We feel we will be a one-stop shop when people need to make quick trips.”

Without a made-to-order foodservice operation, TargetExpress has plenty of room to stock items also featured in its larger stores, which typically range in size from 80,000 square feet to more than 130,000 square feet. The new store –- employing 25 people -- offers a pharmacy, a large health and beauty aids section, office supplies, multiple aisles of household products, and a section called “Tech” where customers can sign up for cellular phone plans and purchase related phone accessories.

Already, Target brass is clearly bullish on the TargetExpress concept. According to Anderson, the retailer will open four more in 2015, three of which will be located in the San Francisco area, with the fourth to be situated in the Highland Park section of St. Paul, Minn.

“We are testing some ideas in this [Dinkytown] store,” Anderson explained. “We will use these tests to make our future TargetExpress stores even better.”

The most notable concept the Minneapolis TargetExpress is testing is its Seamless Service Station, which is a computer tablet that lets customers use a search function to find any item in the store. If a particular item is not available in the smaller Target location, consumers can have the item shipped to their homes. Especially impressive is the tablet’s instant message capability that allows customers to immediately ask a TargetExpress team member for help.

Wednesday marked the "soft opening" of TargetExpress to the general public, with media invited in for personal tours of the store, which is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

The store will host an official grand-opening celebration Sunday.

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