San Francisco's City Target Store: An Urban Goldmine

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I lived in San Francisco between 1999 and 2006.

I visited this past weekend (to chat with Pandora ( P) co-founder Tim Westergren for Tuesday's first edition of TheBeach Meets TheStreet).

While in town, I gave myself a tour of Target's ( TGT) "urban concept" locations.

One will occupy a former Mervyn's site, adjacent to a Best Buy ( BBY). But, don't worry, that banner in the picture reassures browsers and showroomers that Best Buy remains open during construction.

This site is near the University of San Francisco campus, which makes sense; Target located one of its Southern California "City Targets" adjacent to UCLA. Like the LA outpost, the San Francisco store is also a stone's throw away from a Trader Joe's.

The other City Target is up and running in Downtown San Francisco (4th and Mission) in the Sony ( SNE) Metreon building, which houses several other attractions including restaurants and a movie theater.

City Target looks pretty damn nice smack dab on the edge of San Francisco's main shopping district. Seeing that store and knowing how well it and the forthcoming one will do made me, in some respects, back off of the negative opinion I expressed late last year in City Target: Major Disappointment, But Is It An Epic Failure?

Here's where I stand on Target's urban strategy now, which, by the way, interests me because I'm a big fan of urban environments.

One -- I'm still majorly disappointed. Target had an opportunity to do something special in its urban stores. Instead, it ignored anything resembling retail innovation, pulling from the same tired tool box it uses in its suburban stores.

Calling what Target is doing in the urban core a "concept" makes it sound all-too-sophisticated. It's nothing but an urban planning and design workaround. There's resistance to huge big box stores in places such as San Francisco. Therefore, Target compromises and opens slightly smaller stores.

Two -- Even though it's unimaginative, it will work, at least in San Francisco and probably elsewhere.

When I lived in San Francisco there was no such thing as City Target. We -- and pretty much everyone around us -- made regular pilgrimages to the Target big box in Daly City, a suburb south of San Francisco. These new City Targets might cannibalize some business from Daly City, but probably not enough to matter.

While I always opt on the side of innovation, I do understand that Target wants to give these former Daly City shoppers what they expect at the new urban stores. Get too cute and you can scare people right back to the 'burbs for the weekly Target run.

Three -- We likely will not get it, but I want to see a breakdown of City Target versus regular Target sales. For instance, what has happened to the Daly City store since the Downtown SF City Target opened? And, when City Target opens at the old Mervyn's site, what will happen, sale-wise, if anything, to nearby locations?

In the spirit of ( AMZN) not breaking down Kindle sales or Apple ( AAPL) not giving sales numbers from specific retail stores, Target will likely keep these numbers under lock and key.

If Target continues to extend the urban strategy, I guess we can assume success. To this point, it barely comes up on the company's conference calls. That's probably because there's not much to say. Same concept, different-than-usual location and slightly smaller stores. And, as I noted in December's City Target article, they really are -- and certainly feel -- slightly smaller:
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.

I probably shouldn't expect a run-of-the-mill retailer like Target to do anything but mail it in. It knows it can drive revenue in places like San Francisco. So, at least from today's perspective, it sees no reason to break ground on anything but smaller stores. That's disappointing.

-- 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.