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CityTarget: Major Disappointment, but Is It An Epic Failure?

Stocks in this article: TGT AAPL TSLA LULU RH

That's just another verbal specimen of why bricks and mortar is such a depressing space.

The CityTarget in Westwood is hardly different, at least in the way it "feels" and, for the most part, "looks" compared to any run-of-the-mill suburban and/or mall Target. Knowing the physical characteristics of its Downtown San Francisco and Los Angeles locations, I do not expect anything meaningfully different there.

Of course the Target in a place such as Westwood draws a younger, more affluent demographic. I can guarantee that, by statistically significant margins, it also draws more people who get to the store by walking, bicycle or public transportation than the standard suburban shops. I bet the education level and median income of the Westwood CityTarget shopper far exceeds that of the typical shopper at the Niagara Falls, New York Target near where my parents live.

That's the type of thing Target has to tell us about on their conference call? The painfully obvious. The type of stuff you learn when you take your first college course in research methods or data analysis.

That's because CityTarget isn't a "concept" or, as the company called it on the aforementioned call, a new "format." The fact that Target executives would refer to CityTarget as something novel illustrates a mix of disingenuousness and proof of how bad things have become in bricks-and-mortar retail.

Figuratively speaking, CityTarget is a fraud, a major downer. It's a way to work around city planning rules and regulations.

Where Target had the opportunity to innovate, it decided to make barely noticeable tweaks to the plans for its store so it could tap the urban market. While that might work, it shows little foresight on Target's part, zero respect for the state of retail and no desire whatsoever to disrupt, transform or progress in any worthy way.

Target does nothing more than degrade the urban environment with CityTarget. They're bringing suburban accoutrements to the city. Kill me now.

Plop your above-average American down in the middle of the CityTarget I visited without a view of the entrances and exits and they would not be able to tell you if they were in Target Westwood/UCLA or Target Parma, Ohio.

There's no distinction. Want to know the difference? Fewer toys. Fewer kids clothes. Why? Because young children tend not to populate the UCLA campus area and Downtown LA, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago.

In fact, the numbers bear out what I'm saying here. In its latest quarterly report, Target breaks down how many square feet of real estate it uses by store type: Target general merchandise stores (395 stores, as of end of Q3); expanded food assortment stores (1,130); SuperTarget stores (251); and CityTarget stores (5).

On average, SuperTargets take up the most square footage at 177,291 apiece. Expanded food stores come in at 129,281 per. General merchandise stores run 119,084 square feet each. And CityTargets are not too far behind thus far at 102,800 square feet per location. Once inside you really cannot tell the difference between the stores, with SuperTarget the obvious exception.

Near-term, CityTarget should help the company drive traffic and sales. There might be a little cannibalization -- the San Francisco resident who usually drives out to suburban Daly City will now take the shorter trip downtown. But that likely will not trigger much of a drag.

From a long-term standpoint, Target provides another painful and pathetic example of what little vision it and its equally-as-inferior peers possess. Maybe the company is not concerned with such big picture stuff, but it should be.

--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.
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