Courtesy Target

Sending kids off to college provokes all sorts of anxieties, serious and trivial. Student-loan debt, sexual assault on campus, binge drinking—parents can do only so much. But when it comes to kitting out a dorm room, Target wants to make the experience as frictionless as possible.

The retailer has started testing a college registry. Kids—and their parents—will be able to use iPads to set up the registry and iPod Touches (instead of scanning guns) to select items in the stores.

Target isn’t the first to come up with the idea. Bed Bath & Beyond already offers a college wish list alongside registries for weddings and commitment ceremonies, baby showers, housewarmings, anniversaries, birthdays, and even retirements. Maybe someone should start a registry for those newly laid off.

The real money, however, may come from tying the registry to Target’s recently expanded subscription service. Amazon.com has one, too, as you might have noticed. The idea is to ensure repeat purchases by allowing customers to set a schedule for automatic delivery of certain items.

At Target, more than 1,600 products are now eligible, and subscribers get a 5 percent discount on their orders. Parents could ensure regular deliveries of coffee, toothpaste, or printer ink to their college kids. So all that helicopter parenting may pay off—at least for retailers.

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