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Cities Need More Starbucks, Not CityTargets


Number two, it's bad for the pathetically unimaginative brick-and-mortar retail space.

Consider the physical retail experience. It has barely changed in decades. Walk into the cookie cutter design sketch, find a germ-infested shopping cart ( Wait! Sanitary "wipes" for your cart; that's innovation!), push it through the store while buying staples and sleuthing for bargains. Swipe your credit card or, at only the most forward-looking outlets ( snark, snark), use a clunky self-checkout system.

Even as they get their collective butts handed to them by (AMZN), most retailers erect relatively lame online presences, provide lip service about mobile and digital innovations, tout "new," yet hardly impactful product lines (like Joe Fresh at JCPenney (JCP)) and, most of all, keep to the status quo. For Target and other "successful" retailers, that's billions in revenue. (Target reported $73 billion in sales in 2012).

But, by and large, the broad space stands still. These retailers use the urban core of big city neighborhoods to pad their stats. I guess that's what flies in the retail industry. Slap lipstick on a slightly more petite version of a soulless big box pig and, suddenly, it's "urban" or "citified." It's innovative. It's a strategy. A concept.

Bottom line. Target had an opportunity -- still does -- to break ground on more than a slightly-altered version of what it already does. Instead of seizing this moment in time, the company contributes to the same culture of obviousness that keeps most brick-and-mortar retail stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of Jersey.

Seventy-three billion dollars in revenue sounds fantastic today. International expansion. Urban expansion. It's all good until it isn't anymore. No envelope-pushing, like even seemingly boring enterprises are doing (for example, just dig some of the stuff 3M Company (MMM) is doing; this stodgy old company was at SXSW this year!). Target pulls the same "strategies" from the same tired retail tool bag it and its peers have been going to for ages.

That brings the story to Starbucks (SBUX). A company that delivers the exact opposite results vis-a-vis the two primary reasons that make Target both a bad urban and retail proposition.

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