Why the newest Target in Houston was actually an early Christmas Present

With all the craziness this year I haven’t had much time to tend to my blog. I was hoping to have this post out much earlier, but today we’ll be talking about why the newest Target in Houston is so special. With the holiday season wrapping up, there’s a good chance you’ve been to a Target lately, or at least in their parking lot. Target has an old history in Houston, they were the second of the large national discount department chains to arrive following Kmart.


Some photos of the building in its post Randalls pre Traget phase in June.

 

 

Target’s first Houston store opened in 1969 and resembled a modern Hypermarket, including a full grocery store. While novel at the time these features helped Target gain a foothold in what later became a two chain race. By the early 2000s Kmart was out of the picture, Target fell behind Wal-Mart in many aspects. For example their stores were much smaller than most Wal-Marts around town. Also, outside of Super Target locations most stores did not carry fresh foods. Finally, Target had been cutting down many departments, and eliminating some entirely. While Target did try to make up for some of this with constant remodels and their P-Fresh grocery expansion, it was small compared to what Wal-Mart was willing to try in the Houston area.

 

I had a chance earlier this year to stop by the new Target in Shepherd Square. This was actually a few days before the grand opening in November. The store was open to the general public without any announcement.
The facade was updated by Target to accommodate their signage, but otherwise looks just like Randall’s did. Going so far as to use the original dual entryway corridor. The parking lot also remains unchanged, specifically lacking a Target “pickup tower”.
The former Randall’s restaurant entrance is being used as a secondary entrance with access to Customer Service, and the grocery side of the store. At the moment this is the only option for drive-up. I’m guessing Target’s lease does not allow modification of the parking lot. The patio cover is original as well.
Once you step inside though any sense of Randall’s familiarity is lost. It looks just like any other Target you’ve seen in the past few months. Target has always been pretty good about uniformity in their design and styling. This is the beauty section.
Next is the health and pharmacy department. This surprised me as the section is just about as big as most other Target locations. With six short aisles in front of CVS.
Right behind me was the home goods section of the store. Pillows, Rugs, Etc.. This along with clothing was probably one 1/3 of what you would see in a normal Target. For home goods and clothing there was a decent amount of choice and selection, but limited stock of most items.
Flipping back to the pharmacy side, you can see that the Health and pharmacy selection appears to be pretty standard for a Target. They even had an endcap dedicated to lip balm.
This whole section was dedicated to men’s beard and hair care. At this point we hit the back right corner of the store. To the left is Electronics, Sporting Goods, and Toys. These were the final departments being stocked and as such I was unable to grab any photos.
While I couldn’t get any direct photos I wanted to show how large these departments were. The baby department borders toys which is made up of about six aisles with sporting goods mixed in. Electronics had a large wall mounted TV display, along with its own service counter, and electronics displays. They had half height shelving and locked cases just like mainstream Targets.
Turning back around we can see the far left corner of the store. The backroom is located behind the toys, sporting goods, and electronics. From this point to the back left the aisles approximately double in length. These larger departments are baby, cleaning supplies, pet, and some grocery overstock.
This close up shot shows how deep the rear aisles were. The aisles are bisected with a walkway about halfway through. Without the walkway these aisles would be just above a standard Houston Target. The selection and stock in this corner of the store was also pretty close to a normal Target.
Moving closer to the far left corner, there is a large “dent” into the building that seems like more backroom space but is actually the wall of the building which is bound by a preexisting rear neighbor.
The rear of the grocery section is much smaller than the front. As such selection and stock are more limited. While the fresh grocery has a decent selection, canned and boxed goods were in limited supply compared with a normal Target.
About halfway down the grocery section the aisles open up. Selection is still quite limited on most fresh foods when compared to Randall’s but is not far off from the Galleria Target.
The coolers to the left are meant for Beer and Wine but were empty as I believe the TABC permit was tied to the grand opening date.
I believe this is where the pharmacy was during Randall’s but I can’t be positive as I hadn’t been to this location in years when it closed. Most aisles could contain two carts side by side, with the grocery section having a slightly bigger clearance.
The back stock in grocery was good compared to other departments. While I know that regular Targets have some backroom space for grocery I have been told it is one of the smaller departments.
This photo shows the selection of things like juices, and drink mixes. I’m guessing these are items that Target is expecting will drive people into their store.
These are the two aisles of frozen food to the right. It is about equivalent to what is in the Galleria Target. Directly forward is the second entrance along with Guest Services, Starbucks, and Order Pickup.
The front corner of the market provides a look at the entire Refrigerated section, along with most of the produce to the left. This was one of the busier sections as people seemed interested in what groceries the store carried.
With the business of this section of the store it was difficult to get any good pictures. The tables to the right are the extent of the fresh baked goods. From here you can also see the Guest Serbives, and self checkout a bit better.
The produce and fruit at this store is very limited. While there were a few items I didn’t get photos of in a cooler to the right it wasn’t much more.
The grocery section did feature a large amount of dairy, and dairy substitute products. Again I’m thinking these are one of the items that will draw business in.
The meat case was much smaller than most other Targets in the area. Specifically putting items like butter, cream cheese, bacon sausage, and ground beef all in the same case.
The grab and go case had some prepared meals and sandwiches, very limited but still a nice option for customers.
The front of the store consists of the cards and party section seen here, office supplies, and the seasonal section. With the exception of seasonal these sections are never terribly big in a Target.
The party and office supplies are evenly split into six short aisles, with each department taking three. To the left you can see the clothing section of the store. As with any other Target women’s clothing takes the lion’s share of the space.
In the office department the selection is about half of what you’d expect to find at a regular Target, but stock levels seemed pretty good. This was also in the final stages of being stocked, as I think some of these items are located in electronics in a full line Target.
Many Targets now feature multiple seasonal sections. With generally at least 2 per store. One is the larger display with fixed shelving towards the rear of the store, the second generally being moveable shelving near the entrance. This Target had what seemed to be a combo of these two ideas. It wasn’t a very large space but it was densely packed.
Moving past seasonal we return to the Entrance/Exit and find the checkouts. The second entrance has only self-checkout so this is your only option for larger purchases. There are also a few extra self checkouts on the far edge here.
One last shot to close us out shows that even the checkout counters in this store are designed to save space.

Houston seems to rarely be a test market for most national companies. I think we’re seen as being easy to adapt to other markets’ preferences. I’m no market researcher though… In the 2000s Wal-Mart had multiple test stores throughout Houston. For example Mas Club, a Hispanic version of Sam’s Club, along with Supermercado de Walmart, a Hispanic version of a Neighborhood Market, and Sam’s Club Business Centers which were tailored for small business owners. While these prototypes were eventually closed they did provide Houston a chance to provide influence and input for a national chain.

When it was announced that Target would be taking the former Randall’s space in Shepherd Square I assumed this would mean a full teardown of the shopping center. I envisioned everything from the former Randall’s to the right would be torn down and rebuilt as a two story Target. Once details emerged that the Target was not only to retain the original Randall’s footprint, but the building too I was somewhat shocked. I still figured things like the entrances would be reconfigured, and possibly expanded somewhat. It was only when I drove by the Target that I realized not even the brick facade had changed (save for the new sign).

After walking through the store I realized that the product selection had been very carefully crafted. The grocery selection wasn’t as extensive but provided a decent selection on par with Randall’s prices, and necessities would be well within reach for those who needed them such as the pharmacy and baby sections. This Target is an early Christmas Present not because it was the brand new two story behemoth I imagined, but because it was designed around our community and to fit our needs.

4 comments

  1. Target has been using these “Flex” store formats lately in order to fit inside existing retail spaces that in the past they probably wouldn’t have considered. It has really allowed for a lot of flexibility for them (hence the name!), but also a lot of variety from a retail fan’s perspective insofar as store designs are concerned — for example, how the Randall’s exterior wasn’t changed at all here. I quite like the end result on the exterior, and the interior looks nice as well, if a little more standard for a present-day modern Target store. It’s interesting to keep track of which departments are kept full-size and which are shrunk down to fit into smaller footprints like this store, and your post does a very good job of breaking down those department sizes by the numbers. A belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you!

    1. I’m happy that this style of store exists. I don’t think it would have been possible a few years back when the company had hard distinctions between store types. Also thank you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too!

  2. Interesting stuff, I did not even realize that Target was opening a new location in this ex-Randall’s location. I’m glad that Target kept the Randall’s exterior and that the interior is more or less classic Target like one might see in scenes from the 1991 movie ‘Career Opportunities’. I’m glad that the industrial design trends so commonly used by other retailers was eschewed here.

    I’ve seen multiple dates listed for Target’s entry into Texas/Houston from various reliable sources. I’ve seen ranges of 1967 to around 1971. I’m not sure which is actually correct, but it’s true that Texas was one of Target’s first expansion areas outside of the Midwest and that some early Texas/Houston Target stores had store numbers in the high single digits/low double digits. I think the Valley View Target still has a store number around 9 or 10. Those original Targets were quite big as you say since they had a ‘Target Foods’ so to speak and also auto service bays and such.

    Of course, Kmart was in Houston as early as their first year of 1962 (which was also Target and Wal-Mart’s first year), but that’s a whole different story!

    Houston is currently a test market for Walgreens. Walgreens recently made an investment into the Village Medical chain of primary care clinics. Walgreens has started downsizing some Houston area stores and putting Village Medical clinics in the sub-divided space. The initial divisions were smaller, but Walgreens has been giving Village Medical more space in their recent downsizings it seems. Walgreens investment into Village Medical is a substantial one and the plan is to roll this out to many markets in the next five years, but those of us in Houston are getting the first taste of these downsized Walgreens stores which will probably be common in the not so distant future. I’ll include a couple of links if you want to read more about this:

    https://www.villagemedical.com/about-us

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2020/07/08/walgreens-to-pay-villagemd-1-billion-to-open-500-primary-care-clinics/

    1. I’m working on a full dig into at least Target Foods, no finish date on that though. I did look up the grand opening date for Target in Houston for a user on Facebook. It was November 29, 1969 with both South Loop at Wayside and Bunker Hill and I-10 opening at the same time. I’m a little bit further along on my Kmart page but I haven’t worked on it lately.

      Speaking of the Walgreens, Village Medical partnership I got some photos of the first location (Pasadena) a while back. I’ll have to visit some of the others for my post to compare them.

What do you think?