For the first half of this decade, Walmart experimented with mini-stores: tiny Walmarts that fanned out across the country, serving markets too small to support a full-size store. The experiment ultimately failed, and Walmart closed all of its Express stores at the beginning of 2016. Target, however, wants to take over the business of building tiny big boxes, planning to build at least 25 more through 2017.
The chains’ strategies do differ, though. Target’s mini-stores are in urban neighborhoods where a full-size Target simply wouldn’t fit, while the Walmart Express experiment mostly put stores in small rural towns.
Target CEO Brian Cornell said today during the company’s annual meeting that if the concept succeeds, we could see hundreds of tiny Targets across the country. “Tiny” is a relative term when it comes to big-box stores, of course, since the smaller Target stores are usually about 50,000 square feet.
Notably, though, both chains have experimented with mini-stores on or near college campuses. Cornell says that a store near the University of Maryland, for example, carries a lot of clothing and cosmetics.
A second purpose for mini-stores is as access points: yes, you can buy stuff there, but more importantly, they bring in-store pickup closer to urban dwellers.