Target pushes warehouse-style deals

With consumers focused more on the price of toothpaste than buying a new bedroom lamp, Target has gone warehouse.

In a part of the store normally used for seasonal merchandise, the retailer has stacked hulking packages of bottled water and paper towels on pallets. Shelves are lined with super-size jugs of laundry detergent and bulk-size packages of batteries. Shoppers can dig through bins of $1 neon-colored flip flops and packs of athletic socks for $7.

The seven-week promotion, "The Great Save," started showing up in stores over the weekend. It is one of the Minneapolis-based retailer's boldest moves yet to signal to recession-battered consumers that Target can deliver deals alongside trendy fashion.

Warehouse clubs, including Sam's Club, have won the hearts and wallets of many shoppers during the past year of belt-tightening.

Target's profits have plunged during the recession as it has struggled to persuade shoppers that its prices on the same items are within pennies of Wal-Mart's. During the holidays, it aggressively matched Wal-Mart and Amazon on popular toys and books.

"The idea is to create the fun, convenience and treasure-hunt feeling of a warehouse environment within your local Target store - without the membership fees," said spokesman Joshua Thomas.

Target said it will add limited-time-only items to its "Great Save" promotion that aren't normally found in stores, including Samsonite luggage, Calvin Klein T-shirts and Ed Hardy handbags. For the past five years, Target has used that space as its "Global Bazaar," with home decor items with an international theme - the last thing today's practical-minded consumers want.

"This promotion is a lot more correct for the time, given the economy and consumer psychology," said Stan Pohmer, a retail consultant and former Target buyer. "They have that space that they're converting from toy and seasonal, so they might as well generate some incremental sales."