News broke yesterday that after what seems like no time at all US retail giant Target is closing all 133 stores in Canada. It was not all that long ago that we got word about Target coming north. They set up shop in former Zellers stores and began the process of putting their touch on malls across the country.
Consumer and retail analysts will be picking apart these decisions – to come north in the first place, and then to pull out – for some time. But let me, Joe average consumer, weigh in on what I think sunk Target Canada.
First the above-mentioned touch-putting process took an interminably long time to complete. The Zellers store in my local mall closed in the fall. With the announcement of Target’s arrival in Canada most people figured they would be aiming at opening this store in time for Christmas. Nope. The process of renovating the former Zellers store dragged on for months and months. Any retail excitement that may have been generated by the announcement was doused by the long wait for opening day.
But at long last the stores did open. They were nicely appointed and well staffed. Unfortunately the same could not be said of the stock on the shelves. My local Target, from the very day it opened, looked as if it was on the verge of closing. One or two of each item on the shelves, as if to facilitate packing. A few weeks after the store opened I went in looking for a pair of shoelaces, something Zellers would have had in the hundreds. Not one pair was to be found by the very helpful and somewhat embarrassed employee.
Perhaps more importantly, the grocery items in Target were significantly pricier than those exact same products being sold a mere escalator ride away at the large supermarket located in the same mall.
Coupled with the news from the US of a debit card hack at Target, things were off to a slow start. That’s okay, surely it will get better. But no, that was as good as it was going to ever be. Consumers just didn’t take to the sparse shelves and stayed away in droves.
Thanks for trying Target, even if it cost you billions of dollars, however it always seemed it was only a halfhearted effort at it.