As Target rethinks its strategic and tactical priorities, the company reportedly is considering its options for the Food + Future laboratory that it first opened in 2016 in partnership with MIT Media Labs and design firm Ideo.
The Star Tribune writes that the initiative was one of several "potentially on the chopping block as the Minneapolis-based retailer pared back some innovation-related projects in recent months."
The story says that Target has been seeking outside investors to take over the Food + Future program, and was on the verge of shutting it down before an offer from an undisclosed party emerged this week.
According to the story, in the development of the Food + Future program, Target "has been exploring a number of ideas including building indoor farms inside of stores and was at one point planning to test one at Target's store near Fenway Park in Boston. Target employs about 10 full-time workers at the Massachusetts lab. A handful of other positions are funded by partners or contractors."
But, as Target has seen its sales and profits decline, Target CEO Brian Cornell "has been reining in the retailer's big-thinking innovation agenda to refocus on the core business. In January, Target halted a store-of-the-future concept being built in Silicon Valley and killed a secretive start-up project called Goldfish, which was to be an online marketplace."
I cannot comment specifically on the Food + Future program, but it seems to me that Target's decision reflects a typically earthbound approach to business that may spell trouble for bricks-and-mortar retailers.
Every retail company - each according to its resources - has to figure out ways to build a current business with an eye on future innovation. You can't do one without the other, and it often is further complicated by fires that leaders often have to put out on a daily basis.
What Target is doing stands in marked contrast to how Amazon seems to continually be patenting new technologies and investing in ideas that may or may not come to fruition and change the ways in which Amazon comes to market.
Airborne blimps that serve as warehouse/docking stations for drones that deliver products to consumers? Really? But I think these kinds of efforts are critical to being relevant on the future retailing landscape. And Target, which is struggling with current relevance, may be taking bets off the table that would've been important to its future.