In the early days of 2018, technology industry analyst Gene Munster made headlines with his prediction that Amazon would acquire Target before the year was out. While the idea had its skeptics, Munster’s bonafides gave his forecast credibility: Before co-founding venture capital firm Loup Ventures, he spent two decades as a leading Apple analyst at Piper Jaffray.
Now, in the last days of December, it seems clear that the two retail giants aren’t joining forces anytime soon — but according to a recent blog post written by Munster and Loup co-founder Andrew Murphy, the union could still be in the cards for 2019 or beyond. One reason their timing was off, they write, was because they didn’t expect Amazon to expand its own fleet of brick-and-mortar stores quite so rapidly. The e-commerce giant now operates 107 Amazon-branded doors, including Amazon Go, Amazon 4-star, Amazon Pop-Up and Amazon Books.
They also expected its Whole Foods integration to play out more gradually than it has, which would have freed up more resources to handle another major acquisition.
Still, the deal makes sense over the longer term, they reason, because Amazon will eventually need Target’s physical footprint to go head-to-head with Walmart across all channels, as well as its expertise in traditional retail areas like merchandising and design, in which it has so far fallen short.
“Amazon’s core retail competency lies in logistics (not merchandising),” Munster and Murph wrote. And while that works in a convenience store format like Amazon Go stores, “to build most other physical retail — stores where people love to discover new items — requires a completely different competency: merchandising, curation, details, space and experience.”
Target itself has been investing significantly in its digital capabilities and has been rewarded with surging online sales, though the majority of its revenues still come from its more than 1,800 physical locations. Overall, online sales only account for about 10 percent of total online retail sales in the U.S., though the analysts expect that share to increase to 55 percent over the “very long term.”