Target announces launch of its curated, third-party marketplace, Target+

Target this morning announced Target+, a new initiative designed to expand the assortment on with merchandise from third-party sellers. But unlike with Walmart and Amazon’s marketplaces, Target is taking a more curated approach as to how sellers will be added to its program. The retailer says it’s starting with “thoughtfully selected” additions in areas like home, toys, electronics and sporting goods.

While any seller can apply to join Amazon or Walmart’s marketplace, there’s no such process for joining Target+. Instead, Target explains that each partner is “carefully selected” and then invited into the program — a move it hopes will help keep quality high.

At launch, guests will be able to discover an expanded array of running shoes, outdoor décor, patio accessories, a bigger selection of STEM learning toys, new musical instruments and baseball gear from both national and specialty sellers, says Target. Some of the current sellers include: SVSportsMizunoKaplan Early Learning CompanySerenity Health & Home Décor and Music123.

Over time, more products and sellers will be added, as Target learns more about guest needs.

Offering only a curated selection means Target+ won’t face the same struggles as other retailers when it comes to policing their third-party marketplaces for offensive content — like the racist merchandise found on Amazon, for instance; the toilet seat covers featuring holy text; politically charged and controversial apparel; and other items. Because these marketplaces are so large, offensive or just generally questionable or odd merchandise repeatedly surfaces, resulting in bad PR for the marketplace’s host, like Amazon, Walmart or eBay.

Target will avoid this issue by way of its curation, but it will come at the expense of having a larger third-party assortment.

Target+ merchandise will also be integrated into the site within the appropriate categories, so the items can be discovered through both browsing and search. There’s no way to just search for “Target+” items.

In addition, shoppers will have the same perks when buying from third parties as they do when buying from Target’s own assortment, including 5 percent off when using their Target REDcard, free shipping and in-store returns.

Before Target+, a portion of Target’s assortment was shipped directly from third-party vendors, but guests were purchasing the items from Target. With Target+, products are purchased and shipped from the third-party vendors.

“Guests look to Target for great products. With Target +, we aim to give them easy access to even more great products by partnering with best-in-class specialty and national brands that will help guests save and get more done in just one stop to,” said Rick Gomez, Target’s chief marketing officer and digital officer, in a statement.

The launch of Target+ follows Walmart’s recent announcement that it would expand its two-day shipping program to the millions of products offered by its own marketplace sellers, to better compete with Fulfillment by Amazon, which allows sellers to make their items available on Prime. And, like Target, Walmart aims to leverage its brick-and-mortar stores for third-party merchandise returns.

Both moves put Amazon at more of a disadvantage, as its brick-and-mortar footprint is limited to its Whole Foods stores, and various bookstores and other shops in urban metros. Walmart, on the other hand, has 140 million weekly in-store customers, and says 90 percent of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart store.

Target, meanwhile, has 1,850 retail stores in the U.S. compared with roughly 475 Whole Foods stores in the U.S., and more than 4,700 Walmart locations in the U.S. (excluding Sam’s Club).