Rumours of a miniature-sized Target have long permeated the Madison community, and now, you cannot miss the stark red doors while walking down State Street. At the heart of off-campus student housing and food favorites, the small, but mighty supply depot has quickly become a competitor with Walgreens and Fresh Market for everything from groceries to toiletries.
But between the abundance of Sabra snack packs in the downstairs refrigerator section, the Room Essentials bedding supply and the Khalid blasting on the loudspeaker — this Target is catered for students in a not so subtle way.
The quaint storefront highlights the continuation of a retail battle on college campuses. Formatively, Target took to excessive campaign events, hosting after-hour shopping events with live DJ performances, cheerleaders and mascots bringing in about $50 billion dollars in back-to-school sales alone.
But in highlighting Target’s transition towards down-sizing, the creation of a storefront shop on the University of Minnesota campus in 2014 emphasizes an investment in community-based stores with inventory narrowed down for the convenience of the local demographic. Ultimately, students have become valuable consumers for national retailers, as creating a loyal customer base among Gen Z and younger generations foreshadows the potential of lifelong customers after graduation.
With the threat of an Amazon Prime takeover, Target has likewise seized the opportunity from competitors to create a modern and cheap shopping experience for college students on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
My first experience in the new Target was with my mother, who remained beyond confused as to the appeal of such a small store. But I immediately understood the attraction of the two-level layout of the State Street Target.
We were probably in and out within fifteen minutes, thanks to the ease of the short aisles of health and beauty products, quaint grocery department on the lower-level and eight self-checkout stations by the door. The pricing is likewise geared to the working student — bananas sold individually for 19 cents each and a half a gallon of milk for under $3 dollars. The notorious low pricing on groceries overshadowed the lack of specialty goods that other stores, like Trader Joes, are experts in.
You immediately notice the lack of sections quintessential to a larger target, like its infamous toy section or clothing racks filled with knock-off Lululemon, and yet I could easily find the essentials on my shopping list. This State Street-style Target was made for practicality over perusing the aisles.
The efficiency and speed of my experience prove the ways in which this Target is undeniably built for commuting, on-the-go students.
Foot traffic is about 75% of what it used to be before the pandemic, indicating the decline in professionals working in downtown Madison and an increase in the popularization of working remotely. Creating a “for students” business model as the State Street Target can draw in a key consumer base of the city and overcome pandemic losses.
But how should we feel about this power dynamic, knowing we as students are strategically targeted consumers? More so, what does the mini-Target mean for the rest of State Street?
Well, it seems like State Street will not be invaded by any mini-Walmarts or itty-bitty Bed Bath and Beyonds anytime soon. I think that surrounding national chains like Chipotle, Taco Bell, Starbucks and the newest entry, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers are balanced out with the 80% of locally owned businesses on State.
The Madison campus is a unique community full of culture and character from the numerous small businesses of which are here to stay. Rather than fearing repercussions of a big retail company monopolizing the college campus communities, this mini-Target will likely become a intertwined staple of State Street.
Madison Targum is a sophomore studying journalism with a certificate in digital studies. Do you think the mini-Target will prove to be successful among UW students? Send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.