Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Why my students are always on Target.

       Why is it that so many college students love Target, but aren't that crazy about Walmart? In fact, why do they joke about wanting field trips to Target, and scrunch up their faces when I suggest Walmart instead.

         Who's the better merchant, giant Walmart or much smaller Target?

         To answer that, we have to explore the beginnings of each of them.

         Walmart's beginnings are the stuff American legends are made of. Sam Walton, proprietor of a small general merchandise store in Bentonville, Arkansas, was convinced that the road to success lay in saving money for people in his town. He set out near and far to find bargains for them. Business got so good he was determined to replicate it in other small rural towns, offering them merchandise at far lower prices than the other local merchants. Making money by saving people money energized Sam, and he built the largest merchandising operation in the country.

          Target was born of a department store heritage, much of it serving the carriage trade. Target was the beautiful baby of Dayton's in Minneapolis and J.L. Hudson's in Detroit. The company went to add Chicago's legendary Marshall Field and Company. Fashion, quality, and flair were the distinguishing characteristics that also gave birth to Target, and that point of view endears Target to its customers today.

          Target became so big and successful, thanks to its identity and lifestyle image, that the company sold the department store division to Macy's, so they could concentrate on Target, the new big earner.

          You can tell the difference the moment you walk into the two stores. I enter Walmart and I feel like I'm on a mission. Find what I want, save money, don't step on any merchandise, and get out.

          I enter Target and I'm eager to find new things that I'd like to own. I know everything is reasonably priced, so I'm not in dangerous territory. I'm on a trip of discovery, and I'm rarely disappointed.

         Recently, because of the economy, Target has had to expand its grocery operations to keep growing. Walmart is adding smaller stores, some under different names, to appeal to big city officials who don't want big-box stores. Two different paths, each evolutions of their beginnings and their cultures.

        Who's the better merchant? Walmart is generally cheaper, Target to many people is more appealing.

        It's like the hold-up man in the B movies: your money or your life?


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