Touting the ongoing fruits of retail accelerators Target + Techstars, Target Takeoff and an India-based program in Bangalore, Target announced Friday that applications are open for its third round of Techstars (due April 8) and Takeoff (due March 9).
After two years of Target + Techstars, the company said it’s still working with 12 of the participating startups, including quality-inspection startup Inspectorio and Minnesota-based meal kit startup Local Crate. Noting amplified interest in natural and multicultural beauty products, the mass merchant also said its Target Takeoff consumer product accelerator will focus on fresh thinking in the beauty category.
Target also announced a new limited-edition design partnership with British rain boot and footwear brand Hunter, launching April 14 with more than 300 items, one of the company's largest design collaborations.
Under CEO Brian Cornell, Target has revived energy around design collaborations, to the point where at times problems have centered on swift sell-outs that resulted in disappointed customers. Some limited editions do better than others — Marimekko didn’t see the frenzy that Lilly Pulitzer or Missoni did, for example. The retailer has since addressed that by limiting purchases to prevent re-selling and holding special events for its REDcard loyalty card holders. A Victoria Beckham collection last year shattered online sales records, and collections with trendy celebrities and brands continue to help earn Target its "cheap chic" reputation.
The retailer’s choice this year is well aimed — Hunter is a legacy British label enjoying a high-key trend moment. "[B]ased on our research, the brand has the highest guest awareness of any of our past design partnerships," Mark Tritton, Target’s executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, said in a company blog post.
The retailer’s tech accelerators are similarly positioned to bring to Target the kind of fresh thinking and creativity around all aspects of retail, from supply chain to merchandising, that are more likely to be found among startups and entrepreneurs than at a major mass merchant. Takeoff, which began last May as a mini accelerator boot camp, this time around is moving into the booming beauty business — which is poised for rapid growth this year. Companies like Sephora, Ulta and upstart Glossier are all shining at a moment particularly difficult for department stores and mass merchants.
Target isn’t the only traditional retailer working to keep things fresh — Walmart has also unveiled a series of new merchandising efforts and brand affiliations, through its post-Jet acquisitions of millennial-focused brands like Bonobos and Modcloth, in-house development of new furniture and home lines and an apparel revamp.