The much ballyhooed opening of the latest American entry into the Canadian retail marketing space has arrived. As a fairly loyal Zellers shopper I was extremely interested to see what had replaced them in the local malls. I have seen Target in the U.S. and I thought they may have a chance to give Walmart a run for the loonie here.
It was only a week or so ago, their spin doctors announced to the Canadian public that their prices were not going to be as good as they were in the U.S. For me that struck a chord, as it may have with other Canadian consumers who are tired of seeing U.S prices much lower on a large number of products despite our dollar being at close to par. Despite all this, I did venture in with an open mind. There was not a parking spot to be found, so the interest factor was certainly at a fever pitch.
As I walked towards the doors, I noticed there were a large number of people leaving with no bags in their hands. An even worse omen was the guy who said in a loud voice as he was leaving and I and others were entering, “Don’t waste your time”. Inside, the store looks bright and spacious as it should since it is 2 days old. There was a wide selection of products, a nice pharmacy section, a big wall of TVs at the back and well identified aisles. There were also yellow tags with the words “Temporary Discount” to identify the specials.
What was also noticeable was that the prices were higher than Walmart, and the old Zellers stores. So noticeable, in fact, that shoppers were vocalizing it at every turn. I wonder (and it is just my thoughts) if a mid-range department store in this market will be fantastically successful? Does this represent an opportunity for the likes of Sears to alter their tactics to compete more directly with the newcomer? Is this a well thought out tactic by Target to allow them to become more discount oriented in the future if this mid-range plan falters? Either way, the next year will be interesting to see how the Canadian consumer reacts.
As for me, I too left the store empty-handed (which for me is highly unusual). My wife commented that this could be a blessing in disguise if I leave empty-handed! The pre-marketing was good, the Target Loves Canada symbols were a little over the top, the parking lot was full, the store was busy, the buzz has been loud, but in my case, they missed the target.