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Target, one of the nation’s larger general merchandise retailers, is expecting to add produce departments to about 400 stores this year, almost doubling the number of stores that handled fresh produce at the end of 2010.

“Approximately 450 stores offered the expanded fresh food layout at the end of 2010,” said Kristin Jahnke, a spokesperson for the Minneapolis-based company. “In 2011, we will perform merchandise remodels attarget logo approximately 380 additional locations, as well as open 20 new stores. By the end of 2011, approximately 850 stores will have the expanded fresh food layout. In addition to our expanded fresh food layout stores, there are more than 250 SuperTarget stores.”

The SuperTarget stores, similar to Walmart’s Supercenters, have a full-scale grocery store as part of the mix. Ms. Jahnke said that while the variety of different items is limited in the Target stores that have an expanded fresh food section, about 90 percent of the food categories that are in a SuperTarget store are represented in those stores. She added that when stores are remodeled to include the expanded food section, they offer about 40 percent more food offerings than a general merchandise location.

“Our expanded food layout features an expanded fresh food selection and department reinventions that complement one another,” she said. “Within grocery, guests will discover an inviting and open-market layout, including a curated assortment of fresh produce, fresh packaged meat and pre-packaged baked goods.”

She added that a typical produce section in these stores carries items such as bananas, seasonal fruit, berries, baby carrots and bagged lettuce. The meat department features mainstays such as ground beef, chicken and pork, while dinner rolls and pies are offered from the bakery.

Ms. Jahnke said that Target’s expansion into food has been an evolutionary process, but the retailer cranked it into high gear beginning in 2008.

“Target’s history with food began when we first opened our stores in 1962 with an assortment of snacks and beverages. Since that time, Target’s food strategy has continued to evolve,” she said. “In 1995, we introduced our SuperTarget store format in Omaha and increased our dedicated food space in general merchandise Target stores.”

She said that requests from customers have been the main driver behind the expansion into perishable items.

“We began testing the expanded fresh food layout concept in October 2008 at two Minnesota general merchandise stores — our Nicollet Mall Target in downtown Minneapolis and our Ridgedale Target, located in Minnetonka, which is a suburb of Minneapolis,” Ms. Jahnke said. “The concept was then tested more broadly in eight new stores that opened in March 2009 in Tennessee, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida and Iowa, and 30 new and existing stores in the Philadelphia market in October 2009.”

The food department expansion continued throughout 2010 to the aforementioned total of 450 remodeled or new stores offering perishable items.

While Target’s fresh food sections have received much attention, Ms. Jahnke said that when the firm remodels an existing store, it adds other expanded sections as well.

“Our remodeled stores showcase more than just our expanded assortment of fresh food,” she said. “These stores also feature an enhanced layout, assortment and in-store experience in other areas of the store, such as beauty, home and shoes.”

The layout and look of the expanded food department is designed to attract customers’ attention, according to this company spokesperson.

“At our expanded fresh food layout stores, guests are greeted with a bright, colorful and inviting open-market feel that clearly defines our carefully selected grocery assortment,” she said. “Guests will also find open-case refrigerators and low tables featuring fruit, vegetables and baked goods.”

The impetus behind the expanded food line appears to create opportunities for added sales on each shopping trip as opposed to being a customer’s one-stop shop.

“At Target, we’re continuously looking for innovative solutions to provide our guests an exceptional shopping experience,” Ms. Jahnke said. “Our guests have repeatedly told us that they appreciate shopping our additional food assortment while purchasing a prescription and buying an outfit for the evening. We often hear guest comments like, ‘I came to buy shampoo, I saw fresh groceries and thought, Great! Dinner tonight!’“

Target has established a central produce buying office in its Minneapolis headquarters but it also uses other sources for its fresh food purchases, including some self-distribution and some third-party operators.

Ms. Jahnke did not elaborate but said that the company has used “locally grown options across the country.”