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‘Gradually gone downhill’: Target shoppers mourn end of ‘institution’

“A gift card was her ultimate aim. I’m like, really? For a six-year-old, that just shows you what Target meant at the time,” Ms Wood says.

She said the toy sales even took up conversations with her friends, planning gifts for Christmas and birthdays.

Target on Bourke Street on Friday.

Target on Bourke Street on Friday.Credit:Eddie Jim

“It was a bit of a way of life. I still know some of the staff at Camberwell Target. Isn’t that sad?”

Her adult children no longer shop at the mid-range department store and go instead to Kmart, a cheaper chain.

Target and Kmart are owned, along with Bunnings and Officeworks, by the Perth-based conglomerate Wesfarmers, which announced on Friday that it would shut up to 75 Target stores and convert another 92 into Kmart stores.

Claire Morganella still has two Target windcheaters from the 1990s, one in hot pink, the other blue.

“I still wear them at the beach, hot pink and blue, my children probably stare at me in horror but they’re really warm and comfortable – I don’t care,” Ms Morganella said.

“My kids are in their 30s now, but when they were five or six onwards you’d rush down to the nearest Target and get them windcheaters, trackpants. They were really bright and colourful.”

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Her local store at Knox City is often empty, she said, and she feels the quality of fabrics has declined over the decades.

“[Target has] just gradually gone downhill,” Ms Morganella said. “I find it sad … [it was] a real institution.”

The Target store in Sunbury is quiet these days too, says Prue Scott. She also found the quality had declined, but she still has some favourite items.

“Every year, they have a gorgeous A-line dress that has pockets that’s amazing. Every year there’s one and I’ve probably got one from every year.

“You pull out the one from 2012 and it’s probably as good a quality as it was in 2012. The quality is just fabulous.”

Some of the newer pieces of clothing might only last two or three years, she guessed.

Staffer Isabel McDonald of Target in Burwood with the Lay-By room clock full of Christmas orders in 1989.

Staffer Isabel McDonald of Target in Burwood with the Lay-By room clock full of Christmas orders in 1989.Credit:Jack Atley

“Some of the older ones, they could probably last a lifetime. But I think that’s part of the world today, we just don’t make things to last forever unfortunately.”

Ms Scott said Sunbury and her home town of Bendigo would both be worse off if their Target stores closed. Several readers have told The Age that losing Target would have a big impact on country communities.

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Glen Iris woman and Target shareholder Sally McBride dressed her children – now aged in their 30s – in Target clothes as children and is now doing the same for her grandchildren.

“I think it’s been marvellous, all the underclothes, kids’ jarmies,” she said.

“I have given my grandchildren every season, a boy and a girl, a full set from Target. They go out and they wreck them and I’ve been very, very happy to do that.

“For everyday, knocking about at home at the weekends, jarmies and things, I always get it from Target.”

Target is a Victorian-grown business of nearly 100 years.

According to the company’s own history, in 1926, George Lindsay and Alex McKenzie opened a drapery store in Geelong selling mainly fabrics, manchester and furnishings.

The $ 1.3-million Target store at Mt. Gambier in 1973.

The $ 1.3-million Target store at Mt. Gambier in 1973.

By 1968 the single store had expanded to have 14 stores across Victoria.

Ownership continued to change over the decades resulting in a merger between Fosseys department stores and Target in 1996. Three years later, Fosseys stores were all converted to Target stores.

In late 2006 Myer divested from the ownership group and Target fell under the umbrella of Coles Group Limited. The next year, Target was acquired by Wesfarmers as part of the Wesfarmers acquisition of the now demerged Coles Group.

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