Target on Wednesday said it’s partnering with pet supplies subscription service BarkBox and otherwise expanding the pet supplies assortment in stores and online. BarkBox goods will be for sale as of Aug. 13, both online and in Target stores.
The BarkBox tie-up signals the first time that the box service will sell its wares through physical stores, according to a Target company blog post.
The retailer also said that it’s adding some 200 items to its existing "Boots & Barkley" pet supplies brand, selling premium pet food from Blue Buffalo, and is teasing a partnership with popular lifestyle and advice blogger Kate Arends of Wit & Delight for a line of pet-related holiday items.
A major 70% of Target customers have pets at home, according to Target senior vice president of essentials and beauty Christina Hennington, and the big box retailer is catering to them with an assortment of merchandise that it hopes will drive them into stores.
"[W]e saw an opportunity to become their ultimate pets destination by offering new and exclusive pet brands they can only find at Target, alongside everyday must-haves they need, saving guests time and money with every Target run," Hennington said in a company blog post.
Target, having learned a tough lesson in the 1980s when it failed to win a price war with Walmart that Target itself had sparked, has since relied on merchandise differentiation to compete. The company is dedicating teams to introduce more than a dozen new brands over the next two years, with the research and design approach used for Target’s new Cat & Jack kids apparel and Pillowfort kids home decor brands. "We will touch more than $10 billion of current volume with the expectation that we will accelerate growth within our most differentiated and profitable categories," CEO Brian Cornell said in June. For commodity products like food, consumables and household products, Target also plans to compete better on price, executives said.
The effort isn't just a response to Walmart, but an answer to what Cornell has deemed a challenging retail environment — driven in no small way by Amazon — that has turned even apparel and home goods into commodities, leaving customers to decide on price as they shop online and off.
From bookstores to electronics stores, many retailers have registered such seismic activity well before now, notes Matt Sargent, senior vice president of retail at Frank N. Magid Associates. "Target just took longer to feel the 'Amazon digital effect' than [Best Buy], due to the categories and customer base they play within," Sargent said in an email to Retail Dive earlier this year. "Amazon initially went after books (successfully destroying physical book retailers), and then went onto CE and office supplies, and now are expanding into food and apparel."
While the most popular subscription service categories are in fashion and beauty, many other such services proliferate, including Harry's (which has also partnered with Target to sell its products in stores), Loot Crate, which offers geek and gaming merchandise and now BarkBox, which sells dog toys, treats and gifts. The subscription retailer, like other pure-play e-commerce models, is likely feeling the need to showcase products in stores, for the exposure and sales that only brick and mortar can bring.