scorecardTarget is lowering prices and boosting its budget brands as it battles Walmart for shoppers on the hunt for deals
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Target is lowering prices and boosting its budget brands as it battles Walmart for shoppers on the hunt for deals

Dominick Reuter   

Target is lowering prices and boosting its budget brands as it battles Walmart for shoppers on the hunt for deals
Retail2 min read
Dominick Reuter/Business Insider

America's top two big-box retailers have borrowed quite a few strategies from one another over the past year, with different degrees of success.

Walmart has augmented its reputation for low prices with a number of Target-coded improvements such as refreshed stores, upscale product assortment, and smoother e-commerce options to see strong gains among higher-income shoppers.

Target's imitation game isn't faring so well.

The Bullseye retailer posted its fourth consecutive quarter of comparable sales declines on Wednesday, a stark contrast to Walmart's year of strong comp gains.

The numbers indicate Walmart (among others) may be picking Target's pocket in terms of market share as inflation-weary consumers hunt for the best value for their dollar.

Clearly something more urgent needs to be done if Target CEO Brian Cornell is going to fulfill his promise to return to comparable sales growth in the current quarter.

The most recent move came Monday when Target announced a batch of markdowns on thousands of commonly purchased items ranging from butter to baby wipes. Cornell said on the earnings call that the first round of 5%-30% reductions will collectively save shoppers "millions of dollars" this summer, with more to come.

In addition, Target's app and website now feature a Walmart-ian detail intended to convey savings: strikethrough prices that show item discounts.

"We believe that pricing and value transparency will only become more important with time and that we can continue to grow awareness of the great value we offer across our assortment," Target's chief growth officer Christina Hennington told investors.

Of course, those strikethroughs appear most frequently for members of the brand's free-to-join Circle membership program, which was revamped last quarter to include a paid tier for unlimited delivery that looks eerily similar to Walmart+. (Incidentally, Target+ refers to the company's third-party e-commerce marketplace offering.)

Confused yet? Wait until you hear about the company's competing private-label strategies.

Earlier this year, Target went after budget-minded buyers with a new line of essentials under the Dealworthy brand. Then late last month, Walmart took a shot at Target's Good & Gather-owned brand with an all-new upscale private label called Bettergoods.

While Walmart's Bettergoods appears to be winning over more customers, Hennington said Dealworthy is filling a critical spot in Target's range of products, and it's only just getting started.

"Where we've made surgical investment in supporting price points that were missing from our assortment, the guest is responding right away," she said. "When we introduced the right price points in Dealworthy, the guests noticed immediately and that drove unit and traffic acceleration in those categories."

Hennington also said the company is taking the opportunity to upgrade some of the offerings in its more established Up and Up brand.

"We've reformulated 40% of the products to add quality," she said. "Our star ratings and our reviews on Target.com have accelerated meaningfully as the guests have taken notice."

While the Targetification of Walmart is well underway and yielding good results for the retail juggernaut, the Walmartification of Target looks like it's still in early stages.

This summer will be a significant test of whether Target can win back some of the shoppers who have shifted over the past year toward Walmart — plus attract a few new ones.




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