By Nicole Williams
The shelves were stocked, the floor was gleaming, and people donning red stood at attention in every department.
Target was picture perfect for success.
After moving into former Zellers locations, once considered Canada’s department store sweethearts, it seems Target has met the same fate of mass closures only two years after its expansion into Canada.
“Arrogance is one of the primary reasons for Target’s failure,” said Steve Bang, Business and Economics professor at Humber College Lakeshore campus.
Zellers’ failure was in part due to poor location, said Bang. When Target decided to move into these locations, they did not consider why their Canadian predecessors had failed.
There was also a failed attempt at loyalty, he added.
“When Zellers closed up shop, Target had the opportunity to hire those employees, but instead chose to hire their own staff, which completely started them off on the wrong foot,” said Bang.
Now deja vu strikes, and a new generation of employees is left without jobs.
Adam Rouselle works at a Target location in Newmarket, and will be one of many employees looking for somewhere else to work when his store closes in May.
For Rouselle and everyone else, the news of Target closing came without warning.
“I wasn’t working the day it was announced on the news,” he said. “I had actually woken up and just come down the stairs when my parents told me about it”
Mismanagement was a crucial misstep by Target, not to mention charging Canadians higher prices, said Bang.
“What Target should have done is open up distribution to Canadian suppliers, but in insisting the product should be shipped in from the U.S. you drive up shipping costs, meaning you have to charge more for what you want to sell,” he said.
With its reputation for good deals in the U.S., higher prices came as a shock to many Canadians.
Humber Interior Decorating students Elizabeth Panza and Jimena Padilla have both shopped at Target locations in the U.S. and were disappointed at the lack of deals at Canadian locations.
“I liked Target being in Canada,” said Padilla. “Usually their products are really nice and not too expensive, but I found the shelves of the Canadian Target locations much emptier than in America.
“The experience wasn’t as good,” she said.
Panza said she felt she wasn’t able to find what she wanted as easily at Canadian Target locations, and what she could find was pricey.
“I was just expecting to find as much as I could in the States at the same price,” said Panza.
“The Canadian and U.S. markets are so different,” said Bang.
“We like the same things but the Canadian market is so much smaller. You can’t bring in small amounts of product and sell at a low price. It just doesn’t work,” he said.
This is what makes competitors like Wal-Mart, who are not afraid to undercut prices, safe from harm, said Bang.
“Wa-Mart is so efficiently run,” he said. “They buy things in bulk, and are therefore able to sell product at much lower prices than Target.
“When you add that with cheaper online prices, as well as same-day shipping, there’s no way that stores like Target can compete,” said Bang.
In the meantime, for employees like Rouselle, who are still at Target locations until the final closing date, it’s business as usual.
And what happens to the Target employees once May rolls around?
“I guess I’ll be looking for different work. I might take this as an opportunity to explore my options,” said Rouselle.
Many employees however, might not be able to take such a casual approach.
“There’s always the possibility that whoever moves into those locations next will take on Target employees, but unless that happens, their futures are uncertain,” said Bang.
For those who work at Target locations in Etobicoke and the rest of the GTA, there is comfort in knowing the Toronto job market always seems to be plentiful, but could mean a greater commute to the downtown core, said Bang.
For now, it seems Canada is remaining optimistic for what will move in next.
“I see it as both a closed and open door,” said Rouselle.
Target is attempting to push product as fast as possible, before it closes its doors in May.