• Six Tampa Bay Targets have been overhauled this year
•1,000 will be remodeled by the end of 2020
• A new handheld tool allows employees to cash shoppers out anywhere in the store
• The new toy department will remind you of Toys R Us, and the beauty section of Ulta or Sephora
CLEARWATER — The Super Target on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard is lining its back walls with artificial Christmas trees.
A special Hanukkah shop welcomes guests as they walk through the sliding glass doors. Chatter about Black Friday deals is already in the air, as shoppers flip through ads and rummage clearance racks.
But it’s more than the shift of shopping seasons inside the 180,000-square-foot store that has changed its atmosphere. Over the last year, the entire store has been done over. It’s one of six in the greater Tampa Bay area to get a major face lift before the close of 2018 — and one of the 1,000 the retailer promises to renovate by the end of 2020.
"We’re tying together the environment with ease and inspiration," said the store’s manager, Cindy Gallo. "We’re answering the question: ‘What does our guest want?’"
And that may not be the same in every store, said Gallo, whose official title is store team leader.
There is not just one remodel type being used across the Minneapolis-based chain. But there are themes in all the remodeled stores: lighting that seems brighter, a beauty bar that looks like a miniature Sephora and expanded toy sections vying to take over some of the Toys R Us market share after the troubled retail chain closed locations nationwide.
The six stores — in Clearwater, Trinity, Pinellas Park, New Tampa and Gandy Boulevard in Tampa — have updated decor, expanded order pick-up and service counters, enhanced beauty departments, updated mannequins and displays, and added nursing rooms.
"It’s soft and inviting, and cool and hip," Gallo said. "We want it to be an easy place to shop."
The overall shift across the brand — more than 200 stores have been remodeled this year — appears to be paying off. Target’s stock is up about 31 percent so far this year. The brand has also unveiled new clothing and home-good lines that seem to be resonating with shoppers, according to analysts.
In Clearwater, Target is playing pop tunes over the speakers storewide — something the retailer has only recently started doing in select stores.
There also is a dedicated wines and spirits shop within the store, separate from the normal alcohol offerings in the grocery department. That was created, Gallo said, to target customers who stop at the store on their way to Clearwater Beach and want to quickly grab party favors.
The reimagined toy department has interactive pieces that are reminiscent of Toys R Us. Some stores have little playhouses. The one in Clearwater has a giant Lego prop with two block people on a slide, as well as a pipe toy that works like a tin-can telephone. The Super Target in New Tampa has a similar setup.
Target entered the Tampa Bay market in 1991 with a slew of grand openings scheduled on the same July weekend. Then, Target was known mostly as a discount store and was decorated with skinny neon lights. Now, the hip aesthetic is a mix of bright whites, clean grays and rustic wooden accents. And the technology? Not even comparable.
Not only do many of the remodeled stores have expanded self-checkout lanes, but also Gallo showed off the new "my checkout" gadget. Say you head to the new beauty counter — which like the big makeup stores has someone on staff to help you find the prefect shade of foundation — and only need an eyeliner.
"The team member can check you out on the spot as long as you’re paying with a credit, debit or gift card," Gallo said.
Another portable tool even prints out the receipt.
Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] Follow @sara_dinatale