Target Schools the Competition

Shadowing the lives and activities of a few dozen teenagers preparing for college, Jump and Target uncovered the deep, unmet needs of this group of conflicted teens.


Reinventing the back to school retail opportunity.

Back to school sales provide a reliable late-summer lift to any retailer’s fortunes. Unfortunately, that often means that no player can rise above the fray. Target Stores worked with Jump to create a rich portfolio of new Back to School products for college students that spurred double-digit revenue growth in year one and set the stage for Target’s reinvention as Tar-zhay.

Taking Back to School sales to the next level.

In 2001, Target sought to transform its Back to School season from good to great. Back to School is an important season for Target, second only to the holidays in revenue and profitability, and the retailer wanted to move beyond the traditional backpacks and pencils offered by all of its competitors. Target tapped Jump to transform the Back to School experience for students everywhere.

Studying college freshmen at a key time of transition.

Jump identified leaving for college as an important coming-of-age moment, and an aspirational cultural story for other types of Back to School shoppers. The emotional needs of new college freshmen represented extreme examples of the needs that most Back to School shoppers have.  Shadowing the lives and activities of a few dozen teenagers preparing for college, Jump and Target uncovered the deep, unmet needs of this group of conflicted teens. We discovered that they didn’t have a clear story about what their lives would be like away from home, and their parents’ recollections of university days were no help or reassurance. We saw that Target was uniquely positioned to use its internal design capabilities to create a new line of products and services that would help new students—and their parents—imagine a positive experience in college.

Helping students come equipped for a new life.

We used this reframe of the market to create a strategy for Back to School and worked closely with Target’s design team and Todd Oldham to develop products that redefined the season. Noting that many students would be living away from home for the first time, we recommended items like laundry bags with instructions printed on the inside to mask inexperience. Overall, hundreds of SKUs were added or changed to reflect Target’s newfound and deep understanding of the market. In the first year of the new program, Target’s third quarter sales grew 12%, to $8.4 billion, at a time when competitors’ sales were flat.

 

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