Target Taps Giada De Laurentiis To Tout Food, Smith & Hawken To Counter Martha Stewarts

Last Updated Nov 30, 2010 7:00 PM EST

Target (TGT) has signed up a domestic celebrity to promote it as the complete destination for the home cook while purchasing a celebrated outdoor living name to help it compete against another domestic celebrity.

The retailer is launching Giada De Laurentiis for Target, initially emphasizing a cookware line exclusive to itself. The idea, Target stated, is to help shoppers prepare a better class of budget-friendly meals at home, which hints at what the second part of what the De Laurentiis deal entails.

Having developed a following on the Food Network, De Laurentiis has reached the status of celebrity tele-chef, so the cookware extension is a natural. The line currently is rolling out in all Target stores and on Target.com. The assortment includes cookware that is particularly deep in products designed for the kind of Italian food preparation that is the De Laurentiis specialty. The line extends to small appliances including a stainless steel panini grill and even includes colorful aprons to give it more of a lifestyle spin. But it doesn't end there. The introduction includes five pasta varieties, three types of pasta sauces, pesto, vinaigrettes and coffee.

And that takes the deal in a direction it might not have gone a couple of years ago before Target started rolling out its P-Fresh format. Taking Target farther into food than it has gone through its supercenter growth, P-Fresh introduces a limited range of produce and fresh meat to the retailer's discount stores. In doing so, the retailer will become a more comprehensive destination for food shopping at the 450 P-Fresh discount stores it will have up and running by year's end.

De Laurentiis will become spokesperson for a selection of groceries that Target contends is as affordable as the new cookware it is introducing. As spokesperson, she'll share culinary expertise with "at-home chefs," helping them select fresh produce and discover affordable private labels. In doing so, she'll help Target convince consumers that the limited selection of meat and produce at P-Fresh stores is sufficient for the requirements of a Food Network chef. And, she'll provide assurance that Target's extensive and expanding line of typically trendy private label food items is up to the same standard.

While De Laurentiis takes a stand for the retailer, Target has acquired the Smith & Hawken brand of outdoor living products to take on Martha Stewart.

Last week Target announced it had acquired the Smith & Hawken brand and other intellectual property from Scotts Co. (SMG) The retailer already offered the Smith & Hawken for Target line of outdoor furniture, gardening tools and décor products, which hit its stores in 2006. In fact, Target has developed a significant outdoor living business including some pretty pricey grills and Smith & Hawken patio sets that can run a few hundred dollars.

In the meantime, Home Depot (HD) has been expanding a Martha Stewart business, just a month ago adding paint to the multi-department presence. However, the actual Martha brand roll out began this month with outdoor products.

Of course, the timing of the Martha roll out and Target acquisition might just be a coincidence. Yet, it just might be that Target is a bit concerned about Martha horning in on its patio operation. Target spokesfolks were reluctant to comment about where the Smith & Hawken acquisition might take the product line, but it certainly provides the retailer with a free had to develop items that have a pedigree to balance the Stewart reputation. So, Target is positioned to enhance Smith & Hawken in an abundance and style consistent with its particular mode of operation. The effect, if the acquisition works out, just may keep customers from considering Home Depot for those big spring purchases, gas grills and patio sets included, of which so many retailers are so fond.