Big Box Supporting Small Box

Creating a ‘Store within a Store’ is certainly not a new idea. Normally it is viewed as a branded destination within a larger retail store. I was designing for this concept over 10 years ago when I worked on such projects as the Sprint Store at RadioShack. Now, with the popularity of Pop-Up Shops, the concept has renewed energy. Target seems to be a particular fan with its newest plans of putting mini Apple stores within 25 Target locations. These ‘Stores within a Store’ are expected to feature the Apple shopping experience and expand the existing electronic offering beyond what Target already sells.

But other than the increased product sales offering, why give up coveted big-box retailer real estate to another brand? There are a few reasons:

1. Building brand equity through partnership

2. Expanding category growth through Brand credibility

3. Testing and learning new retail techniques

4. Giving shoppers a new reason to shop -- possibly into new or lapsed segments.

Obviously, Target has considered all of these points. The Apple brand is known for being very well-designed, so this fits within the chic, cheap style of Target. And although Target may currently carry electronics, they are certainly not seen as an expert in this space. Welcoming the Apple Store into the fold will give them increased credibility without having to build the infrastructure themselves. Apple is also known as an innovator within the shopping space. For example, they were one of the first retailers to use register-free checkouts. Target certainly will learn a lot by implementing and testing along with this cutting-edge brand. And finally, Target should find they are able to reach a few new customers with the added excitement the Apple Store and the Apple line of products brings to their retail environment.

But there are even more interesting methods at play within ‘Store within a Store’ at Target… Starting this spring, the retailer will be featuring products from many small businesses; such as Polka Dog Bakery, Privet House, and The Candy Store. Certainly in these instances Target is selecting the products based on the above principles. But possibly even more importantly -- by featuring small businesses and American entrepreneurs, they are giving their shoppers a much bigger message -- that they care. Similarly to their customers, the retailer cares about where their goods come from and about helping out the little guy. In a time when Big Box is fighting for loyalty, this is a very interesting way to connect with the heart as well as the pocketbook of shoppers.

Take, for example, Walmart’s promotion to small business owners. They are inviting product innovators to win a spot on the retailer’s shelves. Any manufacturer with a product that aligns with any of Walmart’s existing categories can enter. Shoppers will vote for their favorites, and the winning products will be featured within the world’s largest retailer online and in-store. But for Walmart it is much more than a promotion and a popularity contest to find the next ‘it’ product. It’s about building popularity for the retailer -- and beyond just price. It is giving power to its Shoppers to actually steer the shelves of the retail behemoth. And it is giving power to the American Spirit, by empowering the entrepreneur to launch their product. Then it is positively unleashing the power of the mega-retailer to reach millions of shoppers nationwide.

All of these efforts are using the strength of the largest retailers to give control back to their shoppers and the innovators that power the future. It is a way of using the ‘Store within a Store’ concept in a new and purposeful way --  building brand equity, growing the category, evolving the shopping experience, keeping the retailer fresh --  and doing it all in a way that is heart- and mind-opening for the shopper. Well, Mom always said the best gifts come in small packages… it's wonderful to see they can come in big boxes as well.




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