Target intends to continue its expansion in Canada this year by adding nine new store locations to the 124 already open throughout the country’s ten provinces, the retailer announced Wednesday. Most of the stores set to open will be in Ontario while Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and British Colombia will each get an additional store.
This spring, Target will open stores at The Stockyards in Toronto, Ontario; Kingsway Mall in Edmonton, Alberta; and at Hillside Centre in Victoria, British Columbia. Summer store openings will include a space in Erin Mills Town Centre in Mississauga, Ontario; one at Park Place in Barrie, Ontario; and a third in Carrefour Candiac in Candiac, Quebec. Another three stores will open in the fall, one in St. Laurent, Ottawa, Ontario; one at the Sheridan Centre in Mississauga, Ontario; and another at Polo Park in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The retail giant began opening its first stores in Canada in March 2013 after it acquired leasehold interest of Zellars Inc. and converted those retail spaces into Target stores.
Tony Fisher, president of Target Canada said, “The past year marked a major milestone for Target as we delivered on the unprecedented goal of opening 124 Target stores across ten provinces in 2013.” He added that, “As we head into 2014, we will continue to enhance the guest experience at all stores, while continuing to expand our presence in new Canadian neighbourhoods.”
Enhancing the guest experience could prove critical to Target’s successful reception in Canada as initial responses to the retailer’s presence have been, at times, less than favorable.
Some say too much early hype over Target’s Canadian invasion led to lackluster reactions from consumers and pricing products to be competitive in Canada’s market has meant the same goods are often considerably more costly than in American stores.
Fisher, who is leading Target’s expansion in Canada, explained the reasoning behind the disparate pricing in an interview with The Globe and Mail. He said, “There’s the reality of the vast geography that is Canada and increased fuel prices and different wage rates. There’s the reality of just the lack of economies of scale across a country this size, with a population that’s 10% of what it is in the U.S. So when we pull that together, we’ve built our business model to be incredibly competitive with the lowest-price leaders in Canada.”
In a public opinion poll conducted by Toronto-based firm Forum Research last August, Target ranked last among its major competitors in Canada. The survey found that only 27 percent of the 1,578 Canadians age eighteen and over were “very satisfied” with their Target shopping experience. Costco came in at number one on the poll, with 62% of its customers feeling very satisfied and Walmart ranked second with 40 percent followed by Hudson’s Bay Co. also at 40 percent. Target’s results were down from a similar poll taken in the spring just after stores opened when 32 percent of customers felt “very satisfied.” Forum did not offer insight into the factors considered in determining satisfaction, but some feel price must have weighed heavily.
Canadian professional shopper Angela Koszuta, who shopped at Target stores, told Canada’s CTV news that the retailer would need to improve its in-store design and bring in big name designers in order to attract the Canadian customer. While Fisher stressed Target’s goal to make the stores and the shopping experience on par with that of U.S. stores, some shoppers feel the Canadian version somehow misses the mark.
“If I’m just going for a T-shirt and a pair of pants for my kid, I can go to Walmart. We have that, and Walmart does it well. So I think Target has to do something a little bit extra,” Koszuta told CTV. “I want them to be the cooler younger sister to Walmart, and they just aren’t there yet.”