Curbside pickup became one of Target’s most valuable weapons to compete with Amazon during the pandemic, and it shows no signs of slowing down

Target curbside delivery
  • Target reported strong first-quarter earnings on Wednesday.
  • Its same-day services – including curbside delivery, store pickup, and its delivery service Shipt – grew by 90%.
  • Experts say these delivery options give Target a competitive edge over Amazon and keep its stores relevant.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Target’s curbside and pickup delivery options have become a key part of its business model.

The big-box chain reported blockbuster first-quarter earnings Wednesday despite coming up against strong comparatives from the year before. Sales at stores open at least a year across both its online and in-store business were up 23% year-on-year.

But the standout component in its earnings was its same-day services – including curbside delivery, store pickup, and delivery through its service Shipt – which are all fulfilled by stores. These grew by more than 90%, led by a 123% boost in curbside delivery specifically, it said.

These services enable Target to leverage its store network and put brick-and-mortar front and center of its business model, giving it a competitive advantage over online-centric Amazon. According to the earnings release, 95% of all sales in the first quarter were fulfilled by its stores.

“Stores continued to be the linchpin of Target’s online capability, once again validating management’s strategic decision to position them at the center of its online flywheel, ” Moody’s vice president Charlie O’Shea wrote in a note emailed to Insider on Wednesday.

The company’s physical footprint “is a major strategic advantage,” Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail, said in a note to clients on Wednesday. “Using existing real estate to drive online helps Target’s profitability and improves efficiency for shoppers – which is one of the reasons Target has high satisfaction ratings for its online business,” he said.

In a call with investors Wednesday, CEO Brian Cornell said that its same-day services also have “better economics” than traditional online delivery options as there are no shipping costs.

These services will be a “big part” Target’s capital investment over the next few years, he said. “We expect those services to be very sticky over time.”

The US has been slower than other parts of the world to move into curbside and buy-online-pick-up-in-store delivery options. According to estimates from Insider Intelligence, “click-and-collect” sales more than doubled in 2020 in the US and are expected to grow at this rate through 2024.

Walmart, Best Buy, and Macy’s are among other major retailers to be coming in on this opportunity.

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