Earlier this week, I thought Target (NYSE: TGT ) lacked a compelling catalyst to put it on the short list of potential 2012 investments. Fortunately for Target fans (and potential investors), breaking news reveals that the discount retailer is making some bold moves to regain the magical mojo that used to surround its brand (and differentiate itself from the rest of its price-slashing rivals).
First off, the rumors about Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) getting a larger footprint in some Targets have been substantiated. Target will test these mini-Apple Stores in 25 of its stores.
In an even more interesting initiative, Target will open limited-time boutique shops within some of its stores in May. These specialty stores will come and go in a flash; each will only be open for six weeks, and then in the fall, Target will open another set of specialty shops.
The first set of specialty boutique items will come from places like San Francisco’s The Candy Store, Boston’s Polka Dog Bakery, and Aspen’s The Cos Bar. All told, the collections will represent about 400 items, priced from $1 to $159.99.
If you can’t wait until May for some interesting shopping at Target, note that the retailer is getting back to its reputation for getting great designers’ fashions on its racks at affordable prices. From February 5 through March 6, Target will offer a line of merchandise from designer Jason Wu, whose claims to fame include outfitting First Lady Michelle Obama for the inaugural ball.
Target needed to excite to make its stock look compelling in the midst of retail malaise. I recently asked what’s killing Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) , and one of the spokes in its multi-pronged issues is that it simply lacks any “wow factor” in its stores. Why should anyone choose a retailer that doesn’t give a positive, differentiated experience when shoppers walk in the door? There’s more to the game than price, and Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) and Costco (Nasdaq: COST ) have the market cornered on rock-bottom prices and few frills.
Many retailers might believe being safe and conservative is the only way to survive consumers’ current reluctance to purchase, but I’d argue that many retailers had better summon a bolder approach, and give shoppers a reason to get exci ted about the experience.
Target also plans to buy back up to $5 billion additional shares over the next two to three years. I’m not an automatic fan of companies’ buyback plans (sometimes they’re a major waste of money that would be better directed elsewhere), but given Target’s exciting initiatives, Target shares actually may be a very good deal right now.