Target takes Manhattan with East Harlem store

TargetAfter years of flirting with Manhattan, the bull’s-eye has landed in East Harlem.

Target’s first store on the New York island officially opens Sunday ? with merchandise tailored to the neighborhood, including Spanish-language greeting cards, multicultural dolls, religious candles and renowned Southern food produced locally. It’s a key step in the discounter’s push into urban markets to fuel its growth.

“This is the (company’s) largest single investment on any single project,” John Griffith, executive vice president of property development for Target Corp., said during a press tour Wednesday.

Griffith expects the new store to produce Target’s strongest return ? eventually ? and to land among the top five revenue generators of its 1,700 stores. The store is projected to generate $90 million in the first year; a typical suburban store does about $25 million in the first year, he said.

The new Target joins a Costco wholesale club, a Best Buy electronics emporium and other stores at the East River Plaza on East 117th Street, about a 15-minute walk from the nearest subway stop. More than half of the 400 people hired to work there live in the neighborhood, Griffith said.

With revenue of $65.4 billion in its latest fiscal year, Target is no newcomer to cities. It opened in Chicago in 1994 and now operates about 150 stores in cities and 50 more that have more than 100,000 people within two miles.

Target arrived in New York City’s outer boroughs in the late 1990s and now has nine stores in the region. It plans to open another one in Manhattan, but not for at least three years. And it will be smaller ? 60,000 to 80,000 square feet, less than half the size of the new 174,000-square-foot store, which is about average for the chain.

Real estate executives say crossing into Manhattan is a big deal.

“It’s not about the baby boroughs,” said Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of real estate firm Prudential Douglas Elliman’s retail leasing division. “This is going to plant Target firmly in the urban market. If you succeed here, there’s no market you can’t own.”

Griffith confirmed the chain plans to use a smaller format in its densest markets but didn’t offer details.

Target should be a magnet for consumers because it sells such a wide variety of products, from toothpaste to stylish fashions, but its biggest challenge will be handling crowds, Consolo said. With that in mind, the new store has 26 cash registers, compared with the typical 18.

Target has tested the waters in Manhattan for years, including opening pop-up shops. But it always intended to open first in East Harlem. Zoning and other complications meant developing the former factory site took 13 years.

Griffith said the new store expects locals to be 80 percent to 90 percent of its customers. It features a Harlem Designer Collection with colorful beach wear and towels from designers Isabel and Ruben Toledo and dresses and skirts from Stephen Burrows. Chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson, a Harlem resident, has designed pot holders and napkins. The collection rolls out to 50 East Coast stores and online Aug. 1.

The new store carries a larger share of necessities, including the detergent brand Suavitel, which Colgate-Palmolive markets to Hispanics, plus personal-care products geared for black and Hispanic people.

Kenneth J. Knuckles, who leads the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, said about 545,000 people live north of 96th Street to 218th Street, about 23 percent of them in East Harlem. East Harlem has unemployment as high as 20 percent and almost 27 percent of households living below the poverty line, he said.
Target’s opening is a welcome “jolt” to the neighborhood, he said.

Company executives said they won’t put local stores out of business because the store carries only 65 percent of a typical household’s grocery needs. But don’t expect Lisa Echevarria, 30, an East Harlem resident with two children, to visit local bodegas anymore.

“Target has everything,” said Echevarria, a restaurant worker. Stopping by the store Wednesday, she said Target charges half as much for milk as her neighborhood store.

Source: The Associated Press.