The Twin Cities' Target Economy:
When Target started rolling out expanded grocery sections two years ago in its general merchandise stores, the promotions featured the kind of eye-catching design people have come to expect from the retailer. Three-dimensional fruit bulged from billboards over First Avenue. Produce-filled shopping baskets jutted off bus shelters. Light-rail cars were wrapped in oranges, peppers and other grocery store images.
The creative juice for the campaign came from a branding and advertising boutique just west of downtown Minneapolis. Knock Inc. produced in-store signage and promotions for the PFresh grocery concept, which is expanding at a rate of about 350 stores per year. The agency also creates Target's seasonal decorations, from the holidays to back-to-school displays.
Target is synonymous with good design, but much of the retailer's creative and technical brain trust actually resides outside its Nicollet Mall headquarters. The company routinely hires outside designers and other creatives to help with projects-and not just celebrities like Shaun White or Michael Graves. It goes beyond design, too. From lawyers and consultants to programmers and photographers, scores of small- and medium-size companies play a role in helping Target hit its mark each quarter. It’s the Twin Cities’ Target economy, an entire ecosystem of companies that owe some of their growth and good fortunes even existence, in some cases to the Big Red Bull's-Eye.
"The Target Effect"
The best place to begin observing this phenomenon is in the inner ring, if you will, along south Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. Above the summertime bustle of farmers market stands and restaurant patios, thousands of people are carrying out the myriad of tasks it takes to runs the $65 billion retailing chain.
Target employs more than 13,000 people in downtown Minneapolis. That's a lot of lattes and lunches at nearby coffee shops and restaurants. But that number doesn't include the thousands of other professionals who make a living selling goods or services to Target, like Steve Clinton, co-owner and president of Buyers Support Group. The company helps manufacturers get their products into Target stores. It was founded by a pair of former Target employees in 1984 and Clinton bought the company with a partner in 2002. Today, it employs about 25 people. "We eat, sleep and breathe Target, 24-7," says Clinton.
Buyers Support Group has a 10,000-square-foot office on the sixth floor above Target's Nicollet Mall store, in a building known as TP3. That kind of proximity is key in its line of work: Target buyers won't spend 10 minutes wandering through the skyways to get to a meeting. "If it's more than a block or two away, Target's not going there," says Clinton. That turns the office real estate market around Target's downtown headquarters into "a real chess game."