Sunday, July 06, 2008

Target Is Ready To Paint The Town Red and Khaki

By Al Levine

The great bullseye descends on Milton this month.

SuperTarget on Highway 9 opens at 8 a.m. on July 27, preceded by a soft opening on the evening of July 22 for VIGs – Very Important Guests – that will feature a ribbon-cutting, food samples and entertainment. All of Milton is invited.

It’s the biggest thing to hit Milton, of course, since cityhood, perhaps. Some very perky, ridiculously happy people [read: Target managers] are getting ready to paint the town red and khaki.

And, goodness, it really could have been bigger. A tower was designed for the south end of the store. Imagine Milton with its very own Eiffel Tower.

There are some other small differences between the Milton SuperTarget and others you’ve seen in the metro area.

You won’t see those trademarked words “Expect More. Pay Less” up in lights. You have to be inside the store to see the signs heralding Pharmacy and Groceries. Yes, Target was welcomed with open arms by the Milton powers-that-be, right after it was introduced to the city’s sign ordinance.

Even the SuperTarget lettering on the front of the store is more subtle than most other SuperTargets. [No, my space bar is not stuck; Target markets the store name as one word.]

Target goes to great length to make its stylish stores successful.
According to the employee magazine, RED, two new store sites in Hawaii “were blessed to ensure the success of the endeavors and to protect workers and companies. The oli [blessing chants] asked the spirits of the land for permission to proceed, and were accompanied by purifying water sprinkled onto digging sticks used to symbolically prepare the land, plant the seed and tap down the earth.” No oli here, but your new SuperTarget has the Milton spirit working for it.

Everywhere store team leader [manager] Buffy Trent has gone the past couple of months, she’s encountered impressive civic pride, most notably at one of’s Milton Nights at The Mad Italian Restaurant. “It was at that point that I realized that I’d never been part of a newly created city,” Trent said. “You get this feeling from everybody: ‘Go Milton. Milton Power. We’re going to spend our money in Milton, we’re going to eat at Milton restaurants, we’re going to support Milton businesses and we’re going to get the community and the businesses talking with one another and helping one another.’

“To me, that’s just more pressure to make sure we do the right thing, not just for Target but also for the community. It’s what can we do to help Milton grow as a city, what is our place in that?” Understandably, Trent has been feeling a lot of pressure the past month getting the store ready to open.

There was the hiring of many new employees, including several leadership positions, followed by training at neighboring Targets in Johns Creek, Alpharetta and Cumming.

“You’re bringing in a lot of people who may have been in Target as a guest but maybe not in a retail job,” Trent said. “You’re dealing with a wide range of people. The challenge is how do you motivate and get all those people trained?”

Add in the extra elements of a grocery department, produce, pharmacy, bakery, deli, optical center and a Starbucks and you have an interesting logistical challenge.

A month before the grand opening, the staff moved into to the store and spent three days setting up fixtures, signage and price labels. Then 40 trucks rolled up with merchandise for the continuously-straightened shelves. There was the challenge of feeding the workers daily and keeping them motivated with raffles and giveaways.

Our Target motto is fast, fun and friendly,” Trent said. “Fast, as in fast-paced environment. Fun: Target gives us money just to have fun with our team, just to recognize our team members. These people are stepping out of their own stores.”

Hence, the raffles for beach towels and coolers. “Just fun stuff to make people go ‘this is fun, I can’t wait till the next hour when they do another raffle.’ It sounds silly but people remember that stuff.”

Well, it’s the Target way. Target didn’t grow to be a 1,591-stores in 47 states operation without doing a lot of things right.

One of the main things it does right is community involvement. It gives back over $2 million a week to its communities and supports childhood reading, family violence prevention and art.
“We’re really trying to find our place,” Trent said. “We’re saying what does Milton need and what can we do and how can we help. I think it’s only going to help our business to build up loyalty to Target in Milton.”

You might see a Target booth at the second annual Milton Roundup this fall, with smiling faces wearing red and khaki handing out the store brand Market Pantry water.

Marta McGough, the Human Resources director at the new store, is eager to learn about Milton’s needs and hear funding requests." If we hear of Milton High School doing something and they need a sponsor, we encourage them to come to us,” McGough said. “For example, we’re about to do a district-wide event, putting together 1,400 bag lunches for feed the children at the Woodstock Target.”

Volunteer Target team members are at the High Museum every Tuesday helping kids create arts and crafts projects.

We want to do Milton stuff,” McGough said. “We want to help Milton schools and Milton community centers because that’s who we’re serving, that’s where are guests are coming from. They’re giving something to us, we want to give back to them.”

Hey, Red, welcome to the family.

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