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Is "The Shops at Target" Idea Bad for Small Business?

Last month, Target announced "The Shops at Target" design program, where they'll partner directly with shop owners of specialty stores and boutiques to co-create affordable, limited-edition collections to be sold in Target stores nationwide. The first flight of "The Shops at Target" features five exclusive collections from five U.S. specialty stores: The Candy Store, Cos Bar, Polka Dog Bakery, Privet House and The Webster. According to Target, the collections are meant to "reflect each shop owner's unique perspective, offering Target's guests the opportunity to experience each shop's distinct aesthetic simply by visiting their local Target store or Target.com."

Except for the fact that it's nearly impossible to leave without spending at least $50, I love Target. It's my go-to store for t-shirts, socks, underwear and Nerf guns. Because of my affinity for Target, I initially embraced "The Shops" concept. I can appreciate a store that takes the time to curate a smaller collection of interesting high quality items. It beats the hell out of searching through racks of crap to find something that speaks to you. And bringing unique collections from shops across the country to the masses is a good thing. Or is it?

Certainly it's good for the shop owners who get featured in the store. But what about the hundreds of thousands of other local, independent shops and boutiques in this country? If I can now buy handcrafted dog biscuits at Target, why would I spend twice as much at the shop down the street? I'm not saying "The Shops" concept is bad for Small Business, but I wonder if it trivializes it, or if Target doesn't quite understand Small Business. It's sort of the opposite of American Express's Small Business Saturday. Instead of supporting your local small businesses, go buy everything at Target.

As I said before, I do love Target. I even think "The Shops at Target" is a good idea. I just wish it did something for all small businesses, not just the ones lucky enough to be in the store. The concept is supposed to last beyond 2012 and feature a rotating selection of shops, so hopefully that's the plan. Creating awareness of a variety of small shops and boutiques, as well as encouraging people topatronize their local versions of those shops would be awesome. I really hope that's the case. Because the last thing Target can afford to do is be accused of running mom and pops out of business. If that happens, they run the risk ofturning into nothing more than a better-curated Walmart.