A look into Houston's retail past

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.

Grocery Options may have left the Target on Eldridge

During my recent blog post about the Super Target downgrade in Missouri City, I realized that another Super Target may have fared a similar fate. Looking back through my photos, I found some of the Super Target at Eldridge and Westheimer during construction. I wasn’t paying a great deal of attention at the time, but looking back at them now, I believe the grocery section may have been shrunk.

My reasoning behind this lies partly in the full renovation that kicked fresh grocery out of its home, and behind the cash registers. Secondly, the website now resembles the Missouri City one in terms of departments, deleting Expanded Grocery, Bakery, and Deli. I’ll have to make a trip back to confirm but my suspicions are relatively strong.

What actually got my attention was the fact that the stores sign had been removed. From facebook commenters outside of Houston it seems like this may be the plan for all Super Targets.
The produce and refrigerated section of the store had been moved into the entrance/walkway area behind the dollar section. Grocery was completely walled off. At this point produce was being sold by the piece instead of by weight. Most P-Fresh Targets use this method too.
Glass Case Fridges lined a wall built to seperate the temporary grocery section from produce. You can see one of the self-checkouts to the right showing how little space was actually given to grocery.
Each Fridge had a blank top. Some had writing on them, some did not. You can tell that these were likely brought along from other stores as the writing had been erased and rewritten many times.
The reasoning for these temporary coolers would be the need to store perishable items while the in store coolers are likely being moved to the front.
I’m relatively sure that the product selection will/has decreased if a downgrade did take place. Even still, a tremendous amount of perishables were kept compared to produce.

This Super Target was one of the few Hypermarket style stores left in the area. This brings the count down to the Walmart on Kirkwood and the one on Highway 6. Hopefully limited product selection will not cause too many issues, but it is a bit sad. As when I lived in the area this Target was always a good place to get just about anything you needed.

So long Super Target in Missouri City

Target recently finished a large number of renovations on their Houston area stores. This was done to help bring their image up in line with their more up to date locations. It’s actually part of a nationwide effort to cutback and aid underselling locations.

Edit: I have received word from a reader that this same conversion took place at the Baybrook Target.

The general Southwest area received an expansion of Super Targets in the late 90s. With locations in Houston, Pear Land, Sugar Land, and Missouri City to name a few of the numerous upgrades. However a recent trip to the Missouri City store revealed a surprise, the store has been downgraded! It seems that grocery was not preforming well and the store was downsized to help remedy this.

One of the first clues was the new central sign which nearby Sugar Land did not receive during their upgrade
Despite the blurry image you might be able to make out that the separate Grocery entrance was kept.
The grocery section has been reduced to the size of a typical P-Fresh Target. With an expanded beer and wine selection taking the place of the bakery and deli.
At first glance you can tell something is off. This wall is not as deep as the the bakery and deli were. That is because about half of the grocery floor space has been closed off and is being used as storage.

Looking back towards the entrance, you can see that Starbucks has been left pretty much untouched. It still occupies the from alcove and keeps separate from grocery.

You might notice that for a Target this is a better than average P-Fresh department, that’s because most of the P-Fresh locations in Houston are actually undersized compared to normal. The fixtures were replaced for this conversion and scales along with weighted produce sales were discontinued. The conversion also meant reducing dairy cases down to one shared one, and freezers were consolidated and moved forward.

As mentioned earlier the selection is larger than a normal P-Fresh but compares closer to average sized selection when looking at newly built stores.
A new freezer bank was installed as the original freezers were demolished in the back. Notice the use of drop-in conduits for their new freezers. The original layout did not have these, as conduits were run underground.

 

This back portion of the grocery section was the original frozen section. The Dairy cases
This is looking straight to where the dairy case once stood. The curved wall is a first generation left over.

The next few photos are from various stages during the conversions completion. I was actually in a situation where I had to visit this specific Target a few weeks in a row and watched this all happen. There was no news or publication about the downgrade, and outside of the grocery section you really wouldn’t be able to tell this was no longer a Super Target.

I took this photo prior to the conversion being completed. When I saw this I mistakenly thought they had temporarily modified this area to be storage during the renovation.
Another photo from the renovation in progress. The floors were cut concrete, covered by laminate tile. Sugar Land did this as well, but did not first grind their flooring. Which means the lines show through.
One advantage of the downsized grocery was the fact that the Food Avenue or Cafe a it is now called was allowed to stay. Many other stores have had their Cafes removed during this last round of renovations.

Outside of the grocery downgrade this is still a very nice store. Honestly it’s much quieter than the Sugar Land store and easier to shop. The downgrade is a bit of a shame and means I can’t reliably grocery shop there anymore. I do think that with the way Missouri City and the Western area is expanding there is a small chance grocery could one day make a comeback, but it’s a slim chance. Till next time!

Target Galleria Remodel

Take yourself back to the early 2000s, now try to remember, were there any Walmart locations inside the Loop? There was a location just where the canceled Bay City Freeway stub jabs in to 610, but that was on the outside of the loop. In fact, until the 2012 opening of the Heights Super Center, there was no Walmart presence inside of Loop 610. That meant if you needed clothing, a TV, and snacks all in the same trip, you were stuck with going to Target. While over the past few years Walmart has increased their inner loop presence, they still don’t match the number of Targets within 610. With the large number of Targets, and lack of any real competition. Target’s Inner-Loop stores aren’t exactly the nicest.

The exception to this rule has always been The Galleria Target. While not actually located in the mall, the reputation of the Galleria as Houston’s premier shopping district this location means this location gets spill over traffic. While some of the customers do live in the surrounding “River Oaks” areas, a large portion of traffic comes from international shoppers hitting up The Galleria.

The exterior of this location received its first major exterior update since P-Fresh added a dedicated grocery section in the early 2010s. Target seems to be going very minimalist with their new design.

Almost all text has been removed from the building, however you’d have no issues identifying this as a Target. Some small text based signs do still exist for “Order Pickup” and “CVS/Pharmacy” but those are hidden off to the sides and under other design elements.

The plastic carts are on the way out! Target was one of the first retailers to introduce a completely plastic cart. While they preformed well initially, the bodies were subject to cracking which rendered them useless.

The new carts look somewhat similar to the carts Target had prior to the plastic ones. They use a Metal frame with a plastic body.

Entering the store you can immediately tell that something has changed in this store. It look me a bit to figure it out, what exactly was different here. Many of the full size floor to ceiling displays in the girls section have been removed allowing a view all the way to the back wall.

Across from the Dollar Spot, we find the former Food Avenue. During the P-Fresh Remodel a separate Starbucks counter was added. After the most recent remodel, the Food Avenue was removed. The Soda and ICEE machines are still there and operating. The Starbucks counter might sell the cups for those, but it was too busy to get a picture.

Right outside of the former Food Avenue, and in what was Women’s Clothing, is the new location of Target’s Seasonal Merchandise. For many years the Galleria has had their Seasonal selections all the way in the furthest corner of the store.

 

Notice the new flooring replacing the carpet. This flooring is just used the Seasonal Section, to help with the fact that the displays are all static and can be moved.

Stepping out of Seasonal and looking to the back of the store, notice that what used to be Women’s Clothing all the way back and to the right, is now Kitchen Supplies. Women’s Clothing does continue to take up the space on the left side of the aisle.

This back corner of the store was once the Fitting Rooms. However, with clothing no longer occupying any space on the exterior edges the Fitting Rooms had to go too.

This back wall display is REALLY big. Especially for something you’d see in a Department Store. You wouldn’t expect anyone to be able to reach up and grab the plants on the top shelf, but I guess Target wants to build a tall clientele.

The “Bat Phones” have survived another remodel at Target. The last time I needed to use one, the associate informed me that they are timed as soon as someone picks up the phone. Presumably trying to guilt me in to never using it again.

The Toy Section received something I haven’t seen in a while, Toys mounted for play! Not just the obvious buttons and spinners on the shelf, but the yellow and pink voice transmitting pipes. These used to commonplace in Toy Stores, good to see places like Target picking up the slack.

Pet Care has been moved next to the Hardware department, both of which were given new signage. This signage was first rolled out to the Super Target locations, and is now being implemented on all remodels.

This was taken with my back towards the groceries facing down the center aisle. The lights and displays are all new, it looks a bit cluttered from far away. Although close up it’s not that bad.

The central displays help me to make the case that Target is stepping up their display game. They’ve always been ahead of the curve, being one of the first stores to introduce “body positive” mannequins, back in the late 2000s. Now they’ve upgraded their displays to something you’d see at a mid-level department store. At this point, it honestly looks better kept than the last couple of Palais Royals I’ve been to.

Heading around to the front of the store, the path breaks into two forks near the Pharmacy. The makeup selection at this Target has always been upscale, but it looks like they’re going for a store-in-a-store feel.

The reason the path breaks into the aforementioned forks is to make room for another central display. However the one in the photo above is actually from back in the center aisle.

Heading out to the checkouts, notice everything has been replaced. From the belts to the lighting. The only original elements appeared to be things like the battery holder, and drink coolers.

 

Going to this Target was an experience. It felt more high-class then I had felt at a Target in the past 15 or so years. It felt more like Target did when I was a kid, with the glaring lack of a Snack Bar. It makes me greatly sad that I can’t get popcorn at Target anymore, but the future does look nice.