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Target Says It Will Remove Gender-Based Labeling In Toy Aisles

By Kavita Kumar, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (TNS)

MINNEAPOLIS — After a tweet of a sign in a Target store that distinguished between “building sets” and “girls’ building sets” created a social media firestorm earlier this summer, the Minneapolis-based retailer said Friday that it will use gender-neutral signage in toys aisles as well as in other areas such as kids’ bedding and in children’s books.

In addition, the company said it will remove the pink, blue, yellow and green paper on the back walls of its toy shelves that indicate a gender and replace it with wood paneling. Target said its teams are identifying other areas to phase out similar signage, but added that gender-based language still makes sense in some departments such as apparel where sizing and fit are different. The changes will be phased in over the next few months.

But the gender references for toys and other products will remain on, where gender is often used as a search term when people shop online, said Molly Snyder, a Target spokesman.

In a blog post on its corporate website, Target said that in the past, shoppers have said signage by brand, age or gender has helped them find gifts faster. But the company went on to say that shopping preferences change and it has heard loud and clear from customers that signage by gender in some departments is unnecessary.

“We never want guests or their families to feel frustrated or limited by the way things are presented,” the company said.

The news was greeted with delight by Abi Bechtel, the mother in Akron, Ohio, who tweeted the initial picture that sparked the debate back in June.

“That’s fantastic,” she said in a phone interview when she was, coincidentally, heading to Target to do back-to-school shopping for her three sons. “I think it’s great they are paying attention and re-evaluating how they are doing this kind of marketing.”

In June, Bechtel had been shopping with one of her sons who had birthday money to spend when she saw the sign in the aisle that called out “girls’ building sets” apart from just “building sets.”

She tweeted a picture of the signage and wrote “Don’t do this, @Target.” It was retweeted thousands of times.

Bechtel was surprised that her tweet got so much attention.

“I didn’t expect it to become the center of this entire discussion about gender and the way toys are marketed,” she said. “But Caitlyn Jenner’s pictures had just come out. And the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage came out soon after. So there was a whole lot of discussion about gender and gender roles anyway. The tweet just landed at the right time.”

Up until a few weeks ago, she had still seen the “girls’ building sets” sign in her local Target in Green, Ohio. But on Friday, when she got to the store, she happily reported that the sign was no longer there.

The “girls’ building sets” sign in Target stores was mostly a reference to a line of products called Lego Friends, which include items such as hair salons and flower stands.

Snyder said the “girls’ building sets” signs were recently taken down across the chain and that the changes to signs in the home and entertainment departments will happen in the next few weeks.

Photo: This is the tweet that changed Target’s policy. Via Abi Bechtel/Twitter 

Best Buy Rolls Out Mini-Shops For Samsung Appliances

By Kavita Kumar, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (TNS)

MINNEAPOLIS — Best Buy’s alliance with Samsung is getting even deeper.

The electronics retailer, based in the Twin Cities suburb of Richfield, already has two store-within-a-store spaces dedicated Samsung products; one for TVs and the other for smartphones and mobile devices. Now, in some stores, it will add a Samsung branded space for appliances.

The “Samsung Open House,” a roughly 20-by-20-foot area, was installed in two Minneapolis-area Best Buy stores, as well as one in the Chicago area, in June. It will roll out the mini-shop to about 200 more locations by the end of the year.

“It’s a good partnership,” said Jeff Haydock, a Best Buy spokesman. “Samsung has done a great job in bringing technology into appliances.”

The move comes as Best Buy has placed greater emphasis on appliances as an area for growth. It is also a way for Best Buy to reduce its exposure to the volatility of consumer electronics.

Appliances account for about 7 percent of the Best Buy’s overall sales, but the category has been growing faster than some of its bigger product categories such as TVs and smartphones. Appliance sales at Best Buy grew 7.5 percent last year and 16.7 percent in 2013.

In recent years, Best Buy has also been rolling out Pacific Kitchen & Home mini-shops that offer higher-end appliances to many of its stores. It’s planning to add that to at least 50 more stores this year.

Best Buy has about 1,050 big box locations in the U.S., where it deploys the mix of store-within-stores. It also runs about 350 smaller Best Buy mobile stores, chiefly in shopping malls.

One of the key features of the new Samsung appliance departments will be an 85-inch touchscreen that will give customers an interactive tour of Samsung’s home appliances with photos, videos and other custom features.

The shops themselves will bring together many of the Samsung appliances that Best Buy already carries, such as a robot vacuum cleaner and a four-door refrigerator that allows customers to convert each zone into a freezer or refrigerator depending on their needs.

The mini-shops will be staffed by specially-trained Best Buy employees.

Best Buy did not disclose terms of the deal.

In 2013, Best Buy began partnering with Samsung with store-within-a-store concept in smartphones and tablets, similar to the Apple mini-shops it has had in its stores for years. It also launched a mini-shop with Microsoft that same year.

Last year, the retailer began adding Samsung and Sony mini-shops in home theater that showcase curved and 4K TVs to hundreds of its stores.

In these mini-shops, Best Buy and its vendor partners share the expenses to build out the space and to train employees.

In addition, Best Buy has been dedicating other parts of its stores to showcase products from other major vendors, such as GoPro, Beats, Dyson and Intel. But those areas are not considered store-within-a-stores because they generally don’t have specially-trained employees assigned to them.

Photo: Best Buy is launching 200 mini-Samsung stores throughout the country. Stanley Young via Flickr

Target Asks Customers Not To Bring Guns To Its Stores

By Kavita Kumar, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

MINNEAPOLIS — Target Corp. on Wednesday took a stand against customers who bring firearms into its stores.

“This is a complicated issue, but it boils down to a simple belief: Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create,” John Mulligan, the company’s acting CEO, said in a statement.

The matter became a surprising controversy for the Minneapolis-based retailer in recent months when activist gun owners in Texas and other states chose the company’s stores to demonstrate their belief in the right to openly bear arms.

Texas and other “open carry” states allow people to carry guns unless directed by owners of private property to put them away. Many employers, retailers and other establishments post signs in those states prohibiting people from bringing guns onto their premises.

While gun-rights activists chose Target as a venue to demonstrate their rights, other groups began to express concern about the presence of guns in its stores, particularly because they are frequented by families with small children. At Target’s annual meeting in Dallas, a small group of mothers staged a small demonstration asking Target executives to join other retailers in banning weapons from its stores.

In his statement, posted on the company’s blog, Mulligan said, “Our approach has always been to follow local laws, and of course, we will continue to do so. But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target, even in communities where it is permitted by law.”

Molly Snyder, a Target spokeswoman, said the retailer will not post signs at its stores asking people not to bring guns inside. “It is not a ban,” she said. “There is no prohibition.”

She said the company decided to make this statement after hearing from people on all sides of this issue.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a gun-control advocacy group formed after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., pressured Target for the last month to prohibit customers from openly carrying guns and gathered nearly 400,000 signatures on a petition asking for the same. Its members had also launched a social media campaign about the issue and posted pictures online of shoppers with receipts from other retailers.

“Moms everywhere were horrified to see images of people carrying loaded assault rifles down the same aisles where we shop for diapers and toys,” Shannon Watts, the group’s founder, said in a statement. “Like Chipotle, Starbucks, Facebook, Jack in the Box, Sonic, and Chili’s, Target recognized that moms are a powerful customer base and political force, and you can respect the 2nd Amendment and the safety of customers at the same time.”

Some gun rights activists emphasized though that Target is not banning guns.

The “policy will have no practical impact,” Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, a Minnesota group, said in a statement. It also said the mom’s group gets financial backing from Michael Bloomberg, the media billionaire and former New York mayor who campaigned for stiffer gun laws and started a group called Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

“Target is trying to have it both ways,” Joseph Olson, the group’s founder, said in the statement. “They want to stop Bloomberg’s social media attacks, but they don’t want to alienate millions of Target customers who legally carry, so they call it a ‘request,’ one that carries no enforcement.”

It added that gun owners and permit holders will have to decide whether to keep shopping at Target.

AFP Photo / Justin Sullivan

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Target Says Glitch At Registers Was Not Hacker-Related

By Kavita Kumar, Star Tribune

Target Corp. confirmed Sunday night that a “glitch” in its system had caused delays at registers at some of its U.S. stores, but added that it is not in any way related to a data security issue or a hacking attack.

Customers around the country took to social media Sunday night reporting long checkout lines due to registers not working.

Target did not elaborate on the exact problem or problems, but said it would provide updates as they became available. It also was not immediately clear how many stores were affected by the glitch.

“Earlier this evening, Target experienced a glitch that impacted the speed of checkout at some of our U.S. stores. Since that time, we’ve been able to restore our check-out process. Once again, we sincerely apologize to anyone inconvenienced by this issue,” Molly Snyder, a company spokeswoman, said in an email Sunday.

The glitch comes at an inopportune time for the retailer, which is still trying to regain customers’ trust following the crippling data breach late last year in which millions of customers’ information was stolen by cyberthieves.

Since then, the Minneapolis-based retailer has been stepping up promotions to draw shoppers back to its stores throughout the country.

On Sunday night, Target employees tried to placate shoppers irritated by the long lines by handing out $3 coupons in some stores that said, “We are sorry for any delay you experienced in our store.”

At the Target store on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, a security guard warned shoppers as they entered the store that some of the registers were down so there may be a wait to check out. Employees also handed out free cookies and bottled water along with the coupons to customers as they waited.

On Twitter, some customers also reported receiving free Starbucks items and popcorn.’

Photo: J.Reed via Flickr