Department store rivals more successful at attracting younger buyers

May 19, 2016

Retailers have been releasing earnings the past week, and the big names like Macy’s and Nordstrom haven’t been doing so well. Meanwhile, big box stores like Target have weathered this winter better.

Department stores are feeling their age. Ken Morris of Boston Retail Partners said they can’t whisk new fashions to market like the nimble Spanish chain Zara. And unlike their rivals, they don’t know how to attract young buyers. He said he saw a Spanish-language TV ad for Target recently that had multigenerational appeal.

“Lots of diversity – handicapped actors in the commercial," he said. "I thought it was really, really well done. I could never see Sears or J.C. Penney doing an ad like that.” 

Brian Yarbrough, an analyst with Edward Jones, said Target’s apparel and home sales are up, but Target was hit in other ways.

“The biggest struggles for them have been their electronics side of things, so tablets have just basically fallen off a cliff,” he said.

Target has also revamped its grocery business, and customers are still getting used to the changes. But he said Target is going in the right direction. Consumers want style and low prices. And department stores aren’t known for either.