I was recently on vacation in San Marcos, and while on the trip had a chance to visit a few interesting retail outlets. One of the places I wanted to stop by was a “Target Express”. Target has since eschewed any sort of designations for their stores. Even if your local store still claims to be a “Super Target”, it’s actually just a Target with “Expanded Grocery”. However, with a miniscule square footage of 18,000, this store would absolutely fall under the Express category. While the store is technically off campus, it’s literally across the street from Texas State grounds, and a block away from multiple residence halls. The structure it sits under is actually an off-campus housing project. While I knew this store was going to be tiny, I wasn’t fully ready for what I found.
The store sits with a corner facing entrance, not unlike most pre-1960s supermarkets. It is fronted to students walking down from campus, and has limited visibility when coming through downtown San Marcos. The store can roughly be divided into Thirds. Approximately 1/3 is food, 1/3 is HBA/Pharmacy and 1/3 for everything else. The grocery section was a bit more extensive than what I expected, but was still very college oriented, including chilled beer and wine in the limited cold storage. The actual CVS Pharmacy, is standard in size with the counter at the rear of the store, next to a code secured restroom it feels a bit like visiting one of their stores. The “everything else” category, can best be described as limited electronics, limited home improvement, basic home accessories, and a small amount of clothing. The clothing section was tiny but the largest of the remaining departments. It even included a single cabin dressing room!
Store exterior & Parking
Parking at this Target is limited to a few spaces on the street, and a small portion of the first floor garage. Despite this, Target still includes 2 Pick-Up spots, although without any sort of Tower, just metal signs. The garage also features a secondary entrance and checkout. The store is very well-designed and meshes with the building above. It seems that target takes the first two floors, although sales space is only on the first floor.
Entrance & Grocery
Immediately upon entry, you’re set to go through a one way entry/exit maze. A piece of loss prevention used at large format stores, this is likely to be much more effective, since there is no “Dollar Spot” in front of the exit doors here. The grocery selection at the Texas State Target, is pretty good as far as Target groceries go. This will obviously be closer to what most Target stores used to sell prior to the P-Fresh updates, but do expect to find a small assortment of fresh vegetables and fruits, in addition to a good amount of refrigerated and frozen stocks for a store this small. Comparing it to say a freestanding CVS or Walgreens, (which come close, but are both on average a few thousand square feet smaller than this Target) this store carries a far wider grocery selection. This is no doubt one of the profit generators of this store. In the final photo, you’ll see grocery comes to a close with the self-checkout at the rear entrance. The order pickup cart seems to have found a home here, as opposed to the “Order Pickup” counter we’ll see towards the end of our visit.
CVS / Health and Beauty Aids
Heading towards the rear of the store, we find ourselves in CVS land. As mentioned earlier, this did feel a bit like visiting one of their stores, especially when getting to the pharmacy counter. The selection is obviously limited due to space, but it’s not bad for what they’re able to cram in. Every mainstream product I could think of was there, and I actually had an easier time finding an HBA item here, than a nearby HEB, I stopped at on the way. The store also features a cosmetics section, oddly sandwiched in between grocery and the self-checkouts!
Electronics, Office, Home Improvement, & Accessories
Heading back around towards the front of the store, we find ourselves in the “everything else” portion of the store. What would be entire departments in a normal Target were relegated to single aisles in San Marcos. Although, the merchandise was located and presented efficiently. Oddly, the store features a wall of Video games in their Tech department. While I understand the cheap dorm sized TVs, monitors, etc… I would figure most people, much less students, purchase games digitally as of 2021. I wasn’t expecting to find a “pillow dispenser” in this store, but I understand the logic, and it looked like it could have been refilled! Most other home organization, and accessories were of Target brands. The “home improvement” was mostly command strips, and different types of glue or tape, although that’s not too abnormal for Target these days, who have focused on soft lines as evident in this store.
Clothing & Checkout
Moving onto the final portion of the store, we end up in the apparel section. This was actually an intentional stop, as my brother had asked me to pick up a pair of swim trunks for when we would tube the river later. While there was a decent selection of women’s merchandise, there was almost no men’s clothing here. Two shelves of shorts, a rack of T-Shirts, and rack of polos, and prepacked socks and underwear were all that were to be found. The clothing section was relatively compact, with the dressing room not helping things. I believe the gray pillar next to it is an elevator to some second story offices. Or at the very least a back office for the front checkout. The women’s clothing was the only truly busy section of the store, making it difficult to get photos without people in them. Although upon leaving the store, you’ll notice no one was at the cash register. Staff was busy shelving items, and pulling pickup orders, coming to the register mostly to assist in the self-checkout process, although I assume they would ring you up if you asked nicely.
All in all, this was an fascinating store. I knew that Target Express locations were small, but I wasn’t ready for this. I could see this being a destination for local students, especially if the store stays open past Midnight (even to 12:30 AM) just to facilitate last-minute alcohol sales. It seems that Target’s mentality with the locations, formerly known as Target Express stores, is to stock the store with high need items, and serve as a pickup hub for anything else. This store is also not the only Target in town, with a full scale store operating on I-35 to meet the needs of most shoppers. This location actually serves in some ways as a replacement for 1180 Thorpe, Target’s first location in San Marcos, which closed after the I-35 store opened in 2009. The store seems to be well received by the community with a good number of customers who appeared to be Texas State students walking to the store down the hill from campus.
The old location was the redevelopment of Springtown Shopping Center, a mall of sorts in San Marcos. I say “mall of sorts” because the east side had shops that faced south (like a traditional mall, though Springtown was open-air), and the west side didn’t. In the very late 1990s, the west side was torn down for a Target, while the east side had its “mall” portion removed and just became a traditional shopping center.
This configuration lasted about 10 years before both Target and JCPenney (the east anchor) fled for a new shopping center on I-35. Fast forward to around the late 2010s when the rest of the old center was torn down for a large apartment building (with retail on ground floor) and the Target being redeveloped into a gym and a movie theater.
In any case, the only “malls” in San Marcos these days are the two outlet malls on the south part of town.
“While there was a decent selection of women’s merchandise, there was almost no men’s clothing here.”
Hey, just like a regular-size Target!
Seriously, it does look like a fun little shopping experience and Target using a small retail space as a hub for pickup orders with some high need stock on the side is a clever way to make a university-adjacent location work in this day and age. College students have never been high volume shoppers but they do spend on a selection of items that match typical discount store fare. Marry that with Target’s brand and reputation and online order pickup, seems like a winner.
Ha, yeah, I was going to make a comment about the lack of men’s clothing and what that tells us about the ‘average’ Target shopper, but I guess billytheskink already mentioned that!
I’m impressed with how much Target made this store feel like a typical Target with the white vinyl floors and the drop ceiling. This gives the store a clean, shiny, and uncluttered look that we typically associate with Target. I could do without the grey flooring, which is a complaint I have against modern typical Targets as well, but at least it’s not bare concrete. As far as design fails go, at least Target fails in smaller doses than most of their competition.
But, anyway, the typical Target look probably gives Target shoppers at Texas State University a bit of a taste of their home Targets. It seems that it is missing the popcorn, but supposedly popcorn has gone missing at some ‘normal’ Targets as well so I suppose the literal taste of Target is becoming a bit of a lost thing, unfortunately!