The retail consumer in Canada is finally going to catch a break. After putting up with a dreary, outdated, ho-hum retail market for decades, in which retailing has consistently been about 20 years behind its US neighbors, there are changes afoot.
First came Costco. Great success.
Then Wal-Mart. Big success.
Then came the Apple store. Monster success.
Then Victoria’s Secret. Looking gooooood.
Now, Target. Minneapolis, MN-based Target Corp has just announced a deal to acquire the leasehold sites for up to 220 locations from Zeller’s Canada. They plan to open 100 to 150 Target locations across Canada during 2013 and 2014, after investing about $1 billion in improvements and upgrades. And hiring a load of happy Canadians.
I have been using Target as an example of excellence in branding, customer service, and retail delivery in my marketing classes for years. They have been outstanding competitors in a tough marketplace, and they have managed to maintain a lower-price higher-quality positioning that has proven nearly impossible for Wal-Mart to beat. As a consumer, I always felt that Target provided a far superior shopping experience to most other retailers, including Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart was about price, Target was about the experience.
I believe that Target has likely come to Canada for a few reasons:
- Slowing growth in the domestic US retail market
- Fierce competition in the domestic US retail market
- Saturation with Target stores in the US (they always stated they were going to saturate the US first before going international)
- Lots of cross-border shopping, which would have shown up on their radar
- The Canadian economy and consumer market’s resistance to recent economic dips
- Stronger than ever Canadian dollar (at par)
- Long-term prospects for strong Canadian dollar (petro bucks and the fact that all retail has an arbitrage element)
- Canadian dissatisfaction with retail service and choice levels
- Weak Canadian retail brands (Zellers? The Bay? Canadian Tire? come on….)
- Great brand recognition, awareness, and positive attitude among Canadian consumers towards Target already (who travel frequently to the US)
- Target’s convenient format: one-stop shopping for food, clothes (decent ones at that), sports equipment, electronics, toys, small appliances, bedding, kitchenware, linen, furniture, pharmacy and health care
- Target is clean. It’s customer service is outstanding.The format of the store, with wide spacious aisles and clear signage, is best in class. The experience–as I said before, and have written about already in some of my retail work–is what Target is all about.
- The French pronounciation may or may not have been a deciding element. Repeat after me…Tar GHAY est tres Canadian, eh?
My wife puts it this way: “I feel happy when I shop there.” We have missed the Target retail experience ever since moving to Toronto from Madison. I think that the Canadian consumer is going to richly reward Target for this decision, and the warm and wonderful feelings are going to be mutual. I know in my house we can hardly wait. The slow countdown to 2013 begins. When will they open already? And, oh…
When is The Cheesecake Factory opening in Yorkdale for goodness sake?