Target’s foray into Canada was met with mixed reviews, both from shoppers and the marketing industry. The thought of another U.S. mega-retailer making its way north was sure to stir controversy given that the Canadian expansion of Walmart—a goliath that’s already been here for years—can still rile up Canadians. But when Marketing ran a story last week that included Target executives saying Canadian shopping habits contributed to Target’s inadequate launch, we were flooded with comments from consumers and the industry alike about its Canadian presence.
The story touched on how the retailer plans to reshape the way Canadians shop, and included comments from Target Canada president Tony Fisher that the retailer is going to try to get Canadians into the one-stop shopping mentality that U.S. consumers have long embraced.
The article reported:
Target Canada president Tony Fisher said Canadians still haven’t fully embraced the “one-stop shopping” concept that’s so popular in the United States. Companies like Target have thrived in the U.S. on the idea that everything consumers need is under one roof, an image that competitor Walmart has also embraced with its superstore locations, which are relatively new in Canada.
Fisher hopes that next year, Target will convince Canadians to come to its stores on a regular basis as well.
Even though the brand enjoyed a lot of buzz around its entry into Canada, it hasn’t been able to transform that into booming sales. Studies show consumers are complaining about high prices and out-of-stock items.
Several commenters on our site, including “Rory,” echoed the concern about “empty shelves” and “stocking issues” at the stores. He then summed up his impressions from a consumer’s point of view in a single word: “Lackluster.”
Commenters also mentioned the unintentional upswing Target’s entry is providing for Walmart. As “Julie R.”, who criticized Target’s “crappy merchandise, bad lighting and over priced food” wrote, “The best thing that happened to Walmart was Target coming to Canada.”
“Molly” was also vocal about Walmart’s superiority. Citing Target’s “bad customer service, empty shelves, yawn-worthy prices,” she wrote “We are ‘ready’ for one stop shopping. And we do it at Walmart.”
A fellow commenter added that Fisher’s remarks that Canadians aren’t yet fully into the idea of shopping for different categories under one roof shows Target executives are “out of touch.” The same commenter pointed out that “Canadians have been shopping at superstores (even at one branded as Superstore, in fact) for many years now. Target doesn’t need to teach us anything, it just needs to do what the brand is known for doing: being a fresh, interesting, lively place (that you aren’t embarrassed to even be in) to shop for decent quality, relatively low-priced products.”
Target’s prices were a common theme in the posts. A commenter called “Mizmilvi” wrote “Pretty arrogant of them to blame the customers! I gave it a fair try, visiting two local stores. Their product offering is dismal and they are not competatively [sic] priced.”
“Amanda” used a specific example of her price comparison to slam Target’s prices, writing “If Target wants to succeed in Canada it should not take Canadian shoppers for fools. Charging $25 for a toilet seat in Canada that is $11 in the U.S. (and made in the U.S. so covered by NAFTA), is an insult to consumers on this side of the border. You want my business, offer me the same shopping experience – and the same prices – as you do your American customers. Until then I’ll find other places with better merchandise to shop at.”
At least one commenter came to Target’s defense. “Nicole” visited a Target in Ottawa and wasn’t disappointed at all, writing about the great service and how easy the store was to navigate. “It reminded me of Ikea and the Bay combined into one store.”
However, “Karen Howe” (likely the Karen Howe, senior vice-president, creative director at One), compared Target Canada to Zellers—and not in a good way. (A couple of other commenters made the same comparison.) As Howe, a self-proclaimed “fiercely loyal Target fan,” put it, “Canada’s version is the dumbed-down version. A mere shadow of the US version. Fewer unique, cool, distinctive products to choose from. Empty shelves. It feels like a reworked Zellers. Not the “Cheap Chic” that I adore south of the border. Fill your shelves, I’ll open my wallet.”