Editorial: Meeting is only the first target

Published 4:21 pm Saturday, November 15, 2014

For the Austin residents who attended the meeting Thursday to try to save Austin’s Target, the work is not done.

More than 200 people attended a community forum Thursday to vent their frustrations and plan to stop the Austin Target from closing next year. Target officials announced earlier this month the store would close on Feb. 1. The Austin location is one of 11 stores to close nationwide.

But if anything, the meeting served as a sign that much more work is needed.

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If residents truly want to keep Austin’s Target, then the effort needs be a marathon, not a sprint. Herald reporters have been to several public meetings on important issues where few people attended, so it was great to see close to 200 people at Thursday’s meeting. But that great turnout will mean next to nothing if all those people went home thinking they’d done their part and their work is done.

If that happens and Austin residents fall silent, it will be easy for Target to ignore what’s happened and continue with plans to close the store.

No one should look at Thursday’s meeting and think “mission accomplished.” It was a step, an admirable step, that should be hard for Target to completely ignore.

But let’s face facts: There was a glaring absence at the meeting, as no one from Target attended. Reportedly, a company official told meeting organizers that no one was coming, but as a consolation offered a $1,000 gift card to Austin Public Schools for supplies.

It’s disappointing, though predictable, that Target wouldn’t send someone to the meeting (Would you want to be the one voice pitted against close to 200 agitated, outspoken residents?). To us, Target’s absence and the gift card are more signs that Target hasn’t wavered on its plans to close the Austin store. And we see it as a sign that company expects, or hopes, for Austin to fall silent. It is encouraging that Danielle Nesvold and a group of community organizers plan to travel to the Twin Cities to speak with Target officials.

Retail — just like the push to save Austin’s Target — requires persistence and consistency. The public outcry over Target is great to see from the community. It’s good to see action, but the bottom line for corporations like Target is money. If the response in Austin doesn’t generate big sales numbers, then expect the business to close Feb. 1.

That rings true for any business, whether it’s a national corporation or locally owned store. Without the right sales numbers, it just doesn’t make sense to stay open.

People spoke on Thursday. Now Austin needs to put those words into action.