For its part, Target is hoping to win back hard-pressed customers who want convenience as much as they want savings. The retailer's free subscription program allows people to schedule shipments in four, six, eight, 10 and 12-week installments.
Jason Goldberger, senior vice president of Target.com and its mobile division, told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview this week that the subscription service is expanding much more rapidly than had been expected at Target, driven by very strong demand.
While Target does not break out online sales, Goldberger said that since the subscription service began just over six months ago, 15 percent of online sales of the eligible items are subscriptions orders.
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The subscriptions are part of a broader move online by Target. In October, it began allowing people to order and pay for goods online, and pick them up at the store. The number of products that can be ordered online has nearly doubled to 60,000 since the program began. Sears and Wal-Mart also both allow online orders.
As for its subscription business, Target is still determining how many products will be available by subscription, Goldberger said.
"Our focus is how to serve the Target guests, not look at a competitor," Goldberger said.
—By The Associated Press