Target aims at beauty and babies

October 30, 2013

Is the discounter out on a limb with tests of personal advisors in-store?

While hustling through bustling Target stores to complete their shopping missions, young moms and other women might cherish a change from the typical mass-retail experience.

Since mid-2013, the stylistic discounter has expanded its test of the Target Beauty Concierge, with about 200 planned by the end of the year, and launched a test of Target Baby Advisors in 10 Illinois stores.  The Lempert Report feels the chain would be hard-pressed to pick two more emotional categories to measure the effect of personal attention and counsel on sales in its stores.

Since DIY could go awry in both areas—beauty and baby care—education could be quite helpful, as long as it is credible.  Of course, the consequences differ greatly for both:  A woman may not optimize her look due to errant advice in beauty care.  But there’s no room for error in baby care.   And that’s where we think retailers, including Target, may want to pause. 

It seems as if baby care advice is dispensed via iPads, which show expanded product assortments with user reviews, plus content at Johnson & Johnson’s online BabyCenter resource.  Here’s our concern:  Even though Target may have trained its Baby Advisors not to go off-script from what’s on-screen, it is simply human nature to talk.  It is unrealistic, we feel, for the chain to expect advisors to not converse or relate when babies are the topic.

Moreover, some people can’t resist trying to appear more knowledgeable about a topic than they are, even when they don’t have answers.  Let’s be clear, we’re not picking on the Target advisors or the chain.  We’re simply pointing out a potential liability risk for retailers, and a potential health risk for babies, if communication isn’t exactly what a mom needs to learn.  

In any retail setting, we see the risk for advice to be misstated or misconstrued, or for a well-meaning staffer to inadvertently make harm possible say, by incorrectly fastening a newly bought car seat for a baby.