Through a new third-party seller initiative, dubbed "Target +," Target is reaching out to brands on an invite-only basis for an effort that is "in its earliest stages," the company announced in a blog post Monday.
"With Target +, we aim to give [customers] easy access to even more great products by partnering with best-in-class specialty and national brands that will help guests save and get more done in just one stop to Target.com," Target Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Digital Officer Rick Gomez said in a statement.
New items to be sold by the third parties include running shoes, outdoor decor and patio accessories, STEM toys, musical instruments and baseball gear. Shoppers buying on Target + will receive 5% off and free shipping when they use a Target credit card, and the company will accept returns of third-party items in stores, according to the company.
Over the last nearly two years, Target has invested heavily in its stores and digital operations to the tune of $7 billion. This latest move is a step toward driving online traffic with the help of third-party players. And its selective approach may help it compete against the likes of Amazon and Walmart.
While it's hard, if not impossible, to beat Amazon on volume, a more carefully curated assortment of on-trend brands (a classic page from Target's merchandising playbook) may give it an edge with online consumers.
By including brands on an invite-only basis, Target also reduces some of the risk that comes with a large third-party marketplace. Rival Walmart, for example, has fallen into hot water over the last year for selling products on its marketplace that promoted lynching journalists, impeaching the president and that included racial slurs. Both Walmart and Amazon also struggle with sales of counterfeits through third parties on their marketplaces.
Target's investments in online have begun to pay off. E-commerce comp sales rose 29% during the critical November and December holiday sales months, driven by growth in store-fulfilled digital sales, the company said when it reported its holiday figures in January. At the time, Target also said it's on track to grow its full-year digital sales by more than 25%, for the fifth year in a row.