Remember when the appeal of Target was its “cheap chic” merchandise? Well, now Target wants to appeal to shoppers who like their merchandise just plain cheap.

Target is introducing a new low-priced, no-frills brand next week called “Smartly”. If Target’s Market Pantry brand is too upscale for you, and Up&Up too pricey, then Target hopes Smartly fits the bill.

Smartly is a line of “affordable household necessities”, encompassing more than 70 everyday items like detergent, body lotion, paper plates and razor blades. With basic block lettering on plain packaging and straightforward labels like “Liquid Hand Soap” and “Bath Tissue”, the items look a little like something you’d see in a hospital – minimalist and kind of sterile, like a moderately updated version of the old, generic-brand groceries with stark black-and-white labels reading “COLA” or “PEAS”.

“Our team dug deep to pinpoint exactly what guests were looking for in essentials and personal care – namely, lower-priced options unlike anything Target has offered before,” Target said in announcing Smartly’s launch. Smartly items will range in price from 59 cents to $11.99, with most items costing less than $2.

That represents an attempt by Target to attract budget-conscious shoppers who aren’t brand loyal, who might otherwise go elsewhere for more affordable items.

“It’s about showing people that I don’t have to go to ALDI or I don’t have to go to Dollar General to find what I’m looking for,” Target’s chief merchandising officer Mark Tritton told the Wall Street Journal.

The idea that Target would be going downmarket to compete with the likes of ALDI and Dollar General is a relatively new one. Just a few short years ago, for example, Target launched an ad campaign that attempted to make its groceries look glamorous, in keeping with Target’s affordable but upscale image.


But early last year, that began to change. Target started offering lower prices across the board instead of frequent promotions on higher regularly-priced products. Smartly fits in with that effort, offering “more options at a better value”. Target says Smartly products will cost approximately 70% less than similar products from national brands, and up to 50% less than Target’s own Up&Up.

Smartly products will be available in stores and online beginning next Sunday, October 14th, with additional new products being introduced through the end of the year and into 2019.

If you’re not in the market for Smartly products but are still looking to save money, you might be able to score some deals on the clearance endcaps – Target says it plans to remove the “least performing items” in each product category to make room on the shelves for Smartly.

If, however, you are intrigued by the idea of Smartly, be sure to check out the unit prices to make sure you’re really getting the best deal. Smartly isn’t just about lower prices, but lower opening price points – meaning the lowest price in an entire category of products, regardless of size. So a 4-pack of Smartly toilet paper that will sell for just 99 cents would represent the lowest price point in the toilet paper aisle, even though another brand’s 24-pack that sells for $5 might represent the better overall deal.

But for some shoppers, a 4-pack of toilet paper they can buy for a buck might be all they need. “Smartly offers the affordability of bulk shopping without buying in bulk,” Target explains. “With products sold as single items and offered in small multi-packs… it’s not only perfect for value-conscious guests, but for guests living in small spaces without ample storage.”

Target insists it’s all about giving shoppers another choice, and not about pushing aside national brands. But Smartly’s launch can’t be seen as great news for the big brands, which are already struggling as retailers invest more in their own private labels to attract shoppers who are less brand loyal than they used to be.

So how do national brands earn back some market share? Perhaps by offering more coupons and promotions.

So whether or not you end up being a Smartly shopper, you might end up saving money either way. And that, you might say, is “smart”.

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