The grocery section of a redesigned Target store in Duarte, California.
Customers can soon drive to a nearby Target and pick up fresh and frozen foods like milk and bread, without having to walk down the aisles or park the car.
The national retailer said Thursday that it is adding hundreds of grocery items to its services the same day, as many Americans are looking for safer ways to shop during the coronavirus pandemic. It will offer them in more than 400 stores for the end of the month and in more than 1,500 stores for the holidays. That’s about 80% of its 1,871 stores nationwide.
Target COO John Mulligan said speed and convenience have “become even more critical for our guests looking for easy and safe ways to shop during the pandemic.”
“At a time when even more people are looking for different ways to get the items they need, we will continue to invest to make Target the easiest and safest place to shop,” he said in a press release.
Target’s expanded assortment will include 750 new products, dairy, bakery, meat and frozen items along with those already on offer, such as paper towels, canned goods and cereals. Shoppers buy the items online and collect their purchases in bags inside the store or on the sidewalk.
Target had already planned to add fresh and frozen groceries to same-day services this year, but that effort has taken on a new urgency as grocery items and online sales become crucial sales engines. During the pandemic, Americans have cooked more at home and made fewer trips to stores. When they shop, they often fill baskets with food and essentials or use non-contact options, such as home food delivery or sidewalk pickup.
Purchase patterns at Target have also changed during the pandemic. Customers bought fewer items of clothing and more groceries during the fiscal first quarter, which ended May 2. Food and beverage sales grew by more than 20% and apparel sales decreased approximately 20% in the quarter.
Like other retailers, Target has seen an increase in online shopping. Digital sales grew 141% in the first quarter, while same-day services, including its Shipt home food delivery service, grew 278%.
In just three months, customers picked up more units through the retailer’s retail service than in all of 2019. Target had weeks in April when its driving volume was seven times higher than normal and only days when the pickup volume of Store orders were twice as high as Cyber Monday, company CEO Brian Cornell said during the first-quarter earnings call.
Target has used the services to attract customers. About 40% of those who used to drive in the first quarter were new to the service, the company said.
However, the retailer’s first-quarter earnings declined as it sold fewer high-margin items and had higher labor costs. Cornell estimated at the time that the company had spent about $ 500 million on salary increases, employee benefits and store cleaning, including those that would be paid until July 4.
Target announced in March that it would add fresh food and alcohol to same-day services. Weeks later, he paused on that plan and postponed additional store renovations and openings as the increase in coronavirus cases led to a build-up of stocks.
The company is offering a variety of adult drinks through an order pickup and transportation service at approximately 90 stores in Florida as part of a pilot.
Target has already tested adding fresh and frozen foods near its headquarters in the Minneapolis area and Kansas City. It will then expand into the Midwest and then into other regions, the company said in a press release.
By expanding its grocery assortment on the same day, Target will compete more directly with Walmart, Amazon, and supermarkets that offer similar services. Walmart, the nation’s largest grocery store, has used food to fuel its e-commerce sales. Kroger, the country’s largest supermarket chain, has lagged behind with its online grocery efforts, but had a 92% jump in the first quarter and is building warehouses to fulfill orders from British robotics company Ocado. .