Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Retailers all quaked.

Or, at least, that's how the story went.

As Amazon seemed ready to eat many rivals whole, what were retrograde, familiar stores supposed to do?

Were they supposed to suddenly offer what Amazon could?

In any case, Amazon had all that technology on its side, so how were more traditional retailers supposed to catch up?

Some succumbed.

Why, only this week, the likes of Kohl's and JC Penney offered dismal results.

Then up stepped Target, with a 4.8 percent rise in sales from last year's first quarter.

Target? Hadn't this company gone through a monstrous security breach and several other stumbles? 

Wasn't it more fodder for the march of the Bezos Army?

It seems not.

Target's strategy was quite deliberate. It spruced up 400 of its stores. Another 600 are waiting for new coats of paint and signs of reinvigorated life.

The fronts of the stores now look more inviting. Some even have a slightly more stylish Starbucks, batting an eye to lure customers inside.

Target's online sales service got a boost too--up 42 percent from last year. The twist to this, though, is that 80 percent of those online sales were fulfilled in-store.

Then there's the actual products Target sells. It makes sure it's offering things customers can't buy elsewhere.

It seems almost naive to point out that actually bothering to be different will make you seem different too.

Which leads me to the wise words of Target CEO Brian Cornell. He explained the company's strategy to Wall Street types in these simple words: 

We're not trying to be like everyone else.

When you're under pressure from an aggressive competitor, it's easy to forget the roots of your own success.

It's easy to forget why customers come to you. In Target's case, for excellent prices and just a hint of originality.

Your own management team might nag you to copy the competitor.

Yet, knowing who you are and why customers like you does help.

For example, Walmart suddenly realized that it had enormous strengths--its expansive physical presence, for example--so it made sure to play to those, while making the improvements customers now expect.

This isn't to suggest that Target has triumphed and all will now be smooth and pretty. 

The company's strategy does, though, show that being different can and does still work.

Published on: May 23, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.