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Target goes on YouTube to go after dorm dollars, campus cash

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Going to college is expensive – and we're not even talking about tuition. Last week, the National Retail Federation predicted the average dorm-bound student will fork over $916.48 on furniture, school supplies, electronics and other merchandise, an increase of 9.5 percent over last year.

There's a lot of money to be made selling throw pillows, lamps and extra-long sheet sets, and the New York Times reports that Minnesota-based Target is going after that market in a big way.

On its YouTube channel, Target is launching four online video shows composed of four episodes each. They feature Ann Le, Tiffany Garcia and Michael Balalis, a.k.a. Mikey Bolts, who each have a strong YouTube presence. The shows adhere to the familiar before-and-after format, starting with a boring room and concluding with a redecorated space featuring Target products. Interior designer Veronica Valencia assists the YouTube celebrities.

Last month, MediaPost had a story that noted the Minneapolis-based retailer "has long-since been a popular back-to-college shopping destination, known for trendy, stylish, inexpensive items." This spring, Target launched its College Checklist feature, an online registry that is similar to what's offered before weddings and new babies. The college registry allows students to register for items they need or want to start their lives on campus.

Rick Gomez, Target's senior vice president for brand and category marketing, told the Times that “our back-to-college sales are huge, a big part of total back-to-school sales.” The dollar volume “is slightly larger than” the dollar volume for what students need from kindergarten to grade 12, he added, because college purchases include home décor and electronics that “tend to have higher price points.”

Later this month, Target will unveil its first TargetExpress store in Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota campus. The smaller-sized store will stock products of particular interest to college students in a dorm room or first apartment.

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