First Look Inside TargetExpress (Slideshow)

Target Corp. opens small-format store, plans four more locations in 2015

Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP

TargetExpress store opens to public

MINNEAPOLIS -- Across the street from where 80-year-old independent convenience store House of Hanson once stood, before being razed for a six-story student apartment building last year, Target Corp. has opened the doors of its first ever TargetExpress store on the University of Minnesota campus.

As the retailer quietly opened the 20,000-square-foot concept before this weekend’s grand opening, it also announced plans to open four more sites in 2015, one in St Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood and three in the San Francisco Bay area.

The concept came to fruition in less than a year, and it resembles a perfectly shrunken Target—what you yearn for as you hoof it from one corner of a regular Target store to another. It’s on the ground floor of The Marshall, yet another massive student housing complex that will boast a sand volleyball court and indoor pool when it opens this fall, in a very densely populated corner of campus.

Walk in, and to the right is a line of checkouts resembling those found in the updated Walgreens and CVS formats, with one long line feeding to the next available cashier.

To the left is a nook of college and pro-sports gear, and in front of you opens a walkway leading to 30 aisles (15 per side) of nearly every product an urban dweller would need, from plates and silverware to fans and socks to curling irons, DVDs and printer paper.

The back of the store is dedicated to grocery, with a fresh-food area similar to those found in large-format Target stores: two 360-degree gondolas, two open-air coolers and a back wall of dairy coolers, all flanked by two more aisles of packaged beverages and meal components.

Other sections include a pharmacy, office and school supplies, and a decent-sized tech section selling iPhones, printers and more.

Compared to Walgreen’s new urban flagship locations, Target is definitely keeping to its core strengths. As a Target spokesperson told me as I walked down the aisles, the company wanted to “curate” the product assortment to the size of the store and the neighborhood. The location, about 3 miles from Target headquarters, also will act as a testing ground for future stores. While Walgreens dedicated a lot of time and floor space to prepared foods, TargetExpress had just a few cooler shelves of triangle sandwiches, salads, hardboiled eggs and other quick eats—perhaps a wise move as popular indie and chain restaurants have already saturated this dense commercial zone known as Dinkytown.

But what is in abundance at TargetExpress are packaged snacks, candy and beverages, with well-executed impulse locations around the entrance and checkouts. How House of Hanson would have fared if it had lived long enough to compete directly with TargetExpress is irrelevant, as it never had the chance to try.

Abbie Westra, CSP/Winsight By Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP
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