As more direct-to-consumer brands test bricks-and-clicks strategies, many are finding a home, if not a guiding hand, at one of the nation’s biggest retailers: Target.
The retailer recently made a series of moves that are appealing not only to direct-to-consumer brands, but to its customer base. On Monday, Target announced several new clothing lines, including Auden, a new bra and underwear line that retails for $22 and under and is set to compete with Victoria’s Secret and American Eagle’s Aerie line.
Target is also rolling out its own invite-only third-party marketplace, called Target+. Unlike Walmart and Amazon, which allows any brand to apply to get approval (and has led to some brand safety issues), Target curates the brands, deciding which companies get the golden ticket. And Oars and Alps, a natural deodorant brand—and an alum of Target Takeoff an accelerator program to teach new brands about retail—arrived in more than 250 Target stores at the beginning of February.
“[Target] is reimagining the store experience for their guests,” said Mia Saini Duchnowski, co-founder and CEO of Oars and Alps. “Target’s really reinvented their store experience for the mens’ grooming aisle. Specifically, they are creating a more department store like feel within this drugstore environment.”
Oars and Alps, founded in 2016, sells soaps, deodorants and other products for men. With the Target rollout, the company debuted an exclusive “deep sea glacier” deodorant for people with sensitive skin or who want a product without fragrance based on data the company compiles. Duchnowski said customers have wanted it for a while.
“The thinking behind giving it an exclusive to Target is we have such a loyal customer base is we want to be able to drive our customers to target so that they can experience this new product,” Duchnowski said.
As part of the relationship with Target, Oars and Alps sells nine of its 14 current products, including four deodorants. It’s a wholesale relationship, with “lots of learnings shared across both sides of the aisle” between the two brands, according to Duchnowski. Unlike other DTC brands that forged retail relationships with Target outside of any accelerator program, Target and Oars and Alps became familiar with each other through the Takeoff program.
For Duchnowski and Laura Lisowski Cox, co-founder and CMO of Oars and Alps, the Target Takeoff program was a crash course in retail and understanding the Target guest a little better. While there’s no guarantee any brand that goes through the program will make it onto shelves, Cox remains optimistic when looking at Target’s (and the rest of the industry’s) growth rate in men’s categories, particularly health and wellness.
“It’s been a really amazing experience to be able to come to Target and say, ‘Hey, look. We know you care more about the men’s space. Let’s tell you about what we’re seeing in the men’s digital space and for you to learn from the things we’re doing right on the digital side in exchange helping us gain a footprint on the retail side,'” Duchnowski said.
And though Oars and Alps isn’t the only natural deodorant at Target now (Native, a DTC competitor, arrived on Target’s shelves in September), Duchnowski said it’s helped “elevate the entire category” and let consumers know what a natural deodorant is.
“Consumers now recognize how there are options to get DTC brands and be able to experience DTC brands in a real way,” Duchnowski said. “We don’t have our own store. For us, this is a really great way for our brands to come life.”
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