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Target rocks the boat
Discount chain opens temporary store on barge in New York harbor.
November 15, 2002: 5:58 PM EST
By John Chartier, CNN/Money Staff Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Retailers are seasick worrying about holiday sales, but Target Corp. has a different approach -- just float.

Unable to find affordable digs for a New York City location, the Minneapolis-based discount chain converted a 220-foot barge into a floating store moored for two weeks at Manhattan's Chelsea Piers.

Though any sales from the boat will have a minuscule effect on Target's fourth quarter performance, the company well-known to suburbanites hopes the unique marketing gimmick will give it an edge over competitors by winning over New York's sophisticated shoppers.

Holiday items on display on board Target's New York barge. (CNN/File)  
Holiday items on display on board Target's New York barge. (CNN/File)

"We are always trying to look for unique ideas, and we wanted something new for New York," said John Remington, Target's vice president for events marketing. "We thought that hey, it's an island, let's do something on the water...New Yorkers have pretty high expectations."

About 200 people lined up outside the barge for its noon opening, many of whom were first-time Target shoppers. Others said they travel to upstate New York or to the borough of Queens to hit the discount chain.

Target is offering 92 items from its holiday line on the evergreen-bedecked barge -- a number picked from a line in crooner Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song," saying "so I'm offering this simple phrase, to kids from 1 to 92.

Shoppers lined up at New York's Chelsea Piers to shop Target's holiday boat. (CNN/File)  
Shoppers lined up at New York's Chelsea Piers to shop Target's holiday boat. (CNN/File)

Shoppers were directed past a Santa Claus and onto the barge where products ranging from a $6.99 silver tinsel mini-tree to a $400 portable DVD player were on display. They chose their items and then went back ashore to a redemption center to pick up their merchandise. Internet kiosks were also available for online shopping.

"I've never been to a Target store before. I'm intrigued. I like the ads," said Barbara Campbell, a Manhattan resident who waited in line Friday with her 5-week-old son Theo and her mom Stephanie, who was visiting from Canada.

Campbell, who was more skeptical about the quality of Target's merchandise than her mom before boarding the boat, later said she liked what she saw.

Simone Thomas and Jackie Moore, both of Manhattan, said they regularly shop Target, but were disappointed with the smaller-than-expected size of the boat and number of offerings. Both said they were likely to spend less this holiday season because of worries about the economy.

Jackie Moore (left) and Simone Thomas check out the Target boat at New York's Chelsea Piers. (CNN/File)  
Jackie Moore (left) and Simone Thomas check out the Target boat at New York's Chelsea Piers. (CNN/File)

"We live in Manhattan. Where else can you be more affected?" Moore said referring to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Toni Ann Squitieri, a Westchester, NY resident, said she found good bargains on the boat, but was not as sure about the quality. Squitieri, who was at her job in the World Trade Center when it was struck by two commercial jets last year, said a sagging economy would probably not change her holiday spending habits.

"My attitude is much different now. You have to live your life," she said.

Discount chains like Target (TGT: down $0.60 to $32.89, Research, Estimates) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT: down $0.08 to $55.49, Research, Estimates) are expected to turn in the strongest sales performance this holiday season even as consumers, worried about the shaky economy and a possible war with Iraq, turn to lower-priced chains to save money and spurn traditional department stores.

On Thursday, Target posted a 50 percent jump in its third quarter profit thanks to a strong performance at its discount chains. The company also owns the Mervyn's and Marshall Fields department stores, which have been drags on the firm's profits and sales.

On board the Target boat. (CNN/File)  
On board the Target boat. (CNN/File)

Both Target and Wal-Mart have expressed interest in opening stores in New York City, but the cost of finding a large enough space, combined with the wealth of smaller competitors, makes doing so a dicey proposition. Such chains are able to beat competitors' prices by tightly managing costs -- a task that becomes difficult in an expensive city such as New York, the companies have said.

Both chains have several stores in the New York metropolitan region such as the suburbs of Long Island, New Jersey and upstate New York. But the only major national discount chain to open stores in Manhattan is Kmart Corp., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on January 22. Kmart has two locations, one in downtown and one in midtown Manhattan.  Top of page

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