Walmart has dominated Canada since its launch in 1994. Oddly enough, the world’s largest discount retailer didn’t rock my world when living in Canada and hasn’t in the States either. I can’t explain why. Interestingly, I prefer its competitor Target, the second largest discount retailer in the United States.
Before landing in Silicon Valley, I didn’t know Target. Target is now one of my favorite stores. I love meandering the store. First, grabbing a coffee from their in-store Starbucks coffee shop, stopping by the $1-$3 knick-knack bins, passing thru the clothing department, checking out the latest Blu-Ray releases, then down to the seasonal section and finally through stationery and cards for gifts. South Bay is quiet in terms of nightlife. With Target opening until 12 am midnight on most days (11 pm on Sundays), we’ll occasionally stop in just to “hangout” with the crowds for some nightlife.
When Target announced expansion into Canada starting March 2013, I was naturally very excited for family and friends up north. They, too, were enthusiastic at the prospect of Target giving Walmart Canada a challenge, Target filling in where Zellers and Kmart previous stood, and finally experiencing Target in their backyard as Americans do everyday.
Unfortunately the first few months of Target Canada store openings were lackluster. Shelves seemed barren of product choice and limited in supply to the point where family/friends in Canada asked why I liked Target when it wasn’t long ago that they relished hearing my rave reviews of Target USA. They also asked if Target USA displayed noticeable distribution or supply issues, and if Target Canada was truly in the discount retail sector because their prices were not as competitive as Walmart Canada or some of the discount chain stores like Real Canadian Superstore, etc. My slogan for Target Canada became, “Give it time. The best is yet to come.”
A year past its launch in Canada and I visited Target Canada for the first time – a visit to an Edmonton location, then to a Vancouver store. Perhaps it was the store layout, change in lighting, noticeably different brands in certain departments or the occasional shelving whitespace? Perhaps it was the difference in pricing, like $2-$5 CAD knick-knack bins instead of $1-$3 USD knick-knacks? I felt a fading excitement for Target Canada. But, my fondness for Target USA didn’t and hasn’t unweavered.
After 133 store openings, Target Canada announced the closure of all its stores on January 15th. An unfortunate ending to a short story. I hope Target will rewrite its story in Canada somewhere in the future.
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• CBC News: Target Canada’s failed launch offers lessons for other retailers
• CBC News: Target Canada’s liquidation draws crowds, but also bargain hungry critics
• CBS News: Walmart & Target: A Tale of Two Discount Chains
• Wikipedia: Kmart
• Wikipedia: Target Corporation
• Wikipedia: Zellers