When Target found a fashion niche, it performed well. Its partnership with Dannii Minogue gave it sizeable market share in the petites space, while over decades it developed a strong reputation for quality bras and activewear.
But then the likes of Cotton On filled that gap, leaving it to scramble in the affordable, on-trend fashion space that was becoming increasingly clogged with overseas entrants including Zara and H&M. Why would you want to shop at Aunt Mabel’s when the cool cousins are just up the escalator?
For several years, Target was in a fashion free-fall, leading its bosses to admit in 2018 that it had “lost its way” by alienating its core customer – the young, suburban mum – in a race to be cool.
Two years ago, it seemed that there was enough drive and willingness to reset the course and get out of the no-man’s land between Kmart and Myer where it had been marooned. By going back to what it was good at – affordable activewear, jeans that didn’t talk down to women with lumpy bits – Target hoped to find its place in Australian fashion once more. Sadly, it was too late.
Looking again at the 35-piece Dion Lee collection, the pink spray jacket and ponte leggings feel incredibly current. Ditto some of the Stella McCartney pieces, many of which were returned after customers camped out for them overnight because the cuts were, in 2010, unfamiliar for a market used to things fitting just so. “Oversized” was still a few years off being chic.
What’s most depressing about this is that there were times when Target was ahead of its time in a fashion sense. But too often, Target, or “Tarjay” as it would be mockingly called, made a habit of missing its own mark.