6 Fun Things You Probably Didn't Know About Target

Image Credit: Lisa Freedman

For someone who doesn't travel much, I got to go on a lot of fun work trips this year. During the summer, I went to Aldi's headquarters just outside of Chicago. In September, I went to the Staub factory in Northern France. And just before Thanksgiving, I went to Target's headquarters in Minneapolis. It was a good year! Especially because these are three of my favorite brands.

With the Thanksgiving frenzy, I didn't get to tell you guys about my Target trip. So here goes! Here are some of the most surprising things I learned during my visit.

1. There's a giant team that watches what you post about Target on social media.

I wasn't allowed to take pictures in this room, but imagine a big conference space with eight television screens and dozens of lined-up computers. That's Target's Guest Central and it's where a team watches to see what's happening in the news, what Target guests (that's what shoppers are called) are posting on Insta, what's being said on Facebook, and more. It sounds more Big Brother-y than it should: It's really meant to help the brand find trends and engage with shoppers, er, guests.

Oh, and if you have a complaint or need assistance, that's a whole different team. Another group monitors the same social channels (somewhere else in one of Target's four Minneapolis-based towers) and is on standby to step in and help when needed.

Image Credit: Target

2. Threshold is the store's best-selling home brand.

Love the simple-yet-chic design of all things Threshold? You're not alone: It's a billion-dollar brand for Target, which explains why there are always so many new introductions to the line. Of course, it's not the store's only line and I learned that guests typically like to mix and match the brands. A little Threshold with a little Opalhouse with a little Hearth & Hand with Magnolia, for example.

I asked if there were plans for any new private-label brands in 2019 and it didn't seem likely. But execs pointed out that there are more than 50,000 new brand-owned product introductions each year.

Image Credit: Lisa Freedman

3. Each of these brands gets its own mini store.

Every private-label brand that Target releases gets its own Brand Room. In these rooms, they set up products, display inspiration, and use the space to showcase what that brand is and what the brand isn't. We got to see the Made By Design room and the Pillowfort room (but we couldn't take pictures in the latter because it had top-secret stuff for an upcoming season on display). There's also an entire real-life-sized mock store (lots of companies do this, actually) that allows the higher ups to see what future displays will look like IRL and make big-picture store decisions.

Image Credit: Target

4. There are real people behind the super-cute designs.

I guess I would have figured this out — it's just something I never really thought about. (There are actually more than 500 designers and product engineers!) During our tour, we got to meet the talented artist behind one of the season's cutest prints (pictured above and featured on these plates), which appeared on a few holiday items. Fun fact: When we interrupted her work day, she was in the middle of designing a pattern for a winter hat ... for Q4 in 2019!

Image Credit: Lisa Freedman

5. Execs go to real people's homes and travel all over the world.

I spent a lot of time chatting with Target's Senior Vice President of Merchandising, Home, Jill Sando, and she told me all about her upcoming travels and what she's hoping to get out of it all. See, Sando and other Target employees will go to, say, London later this month to learn about Christmas trends over there.

That's how Target's new personalized gifting stations came about. They saw something similar abroad last year and brought the idea back to the States. Now, guests can have their names printed on ornaments, gift bags, stockings, and wrapping paper while they shop (prices range from $6 to $20). And that print that I pointed out above was inspired by the streets of Amsterdam and Paris.

Image Credit: Lisa Freedman

Sando and her team will also spend time in real people's homes each year to talk about how they live and what some of the pain points are. In fact, that's how the store's simple-and-functional brand Made By Design was founded. (It was actually through the most extensive guest research Target has done.) Target execs realized that people were willing to open up their cabinet doors but were almost always embarrassed by the mess behind them. And that people hated straining pasta. With that, Made By Design — including all sorts of organizers and this smart pot with a built-in strainer — was born.

Image Credit: Lisa Freedman

6. There's all sorts of merch that's for employees only.

Target's headquarters has a GIFT SHOP! And it sells Target-themed stuff, like stuffed versions of Bullseye (the dog), tote bags, water bottles, and more. You have to be an employee (or with an employee) to shop there. If you can finagle an invitation somehow, it's worth it!