Target Leaving Canada…Totally Predictable!

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By J.C. Williams Group

Target leaving Canada is no surprise. Their stores were a real flop right out of the gate. Since the chain first opened its doors in March 2013, there were all sorts of basic issues: supply chain and empty shelves, dropping a fashion flyer with no advertised items in the store, summer fashion posters still up in November, etc. Behind this was an organization that was siloed—with marketing, merchandising and operations clearly not communicating and totally out-of-sync.

What has always been an amazing situation is that this phenomenal U.S. chain couldn’t even get Retail 101 right in Canada: in the Target store closest to my neighbourhood, the front and forward merchandise areas were empty and the high-traffic fixtures around the escalators were devoted to dollar store items. Even more astounding was the situation when I went to purchase a pair of jeans on the second floor men’s wear department. I was told that there was “no fitting room and that I would have to go to the lower floor women’s wear department.” What? A men’s wear area without fitting rooms? OMG!

We all hoped for an up-beat, creative, contemporary offering. What we got was a mess.

Unfortunately, they won’t be missed—because they never ever really arrived.

Some key learnings from Target:

  • Get the basics right!
  • Don’t be arrogant!
  • Don’t switch your culture!
  • Be nimble—or else!
  • If you have great resources—use them!
  • Never underestimate a competitor!

J.C. Williams Group is a well-known, full-service retail and marketing consulting firm. It offers clients practical, creative, and in-depth knowledge of retailing and marketing, including up-to-date know-how and techniques to make retail operations better and more profitable. You can also read their informative blog, Retaileye, here:



  1. This is exactly the kind of commentary Target has received since Day 1. Canadians weren’t willing to give them a chance and now 17000 people lose their jobs. I say good for Target for sticking it to Canadians and leaving without batting an eye. Enjoy Walmart JCW.

    • Target failed to create a compelling value proposition in Canada. This isn’t about bad press affecting consumer perception — Target’s failure was its own doing, and Canadians voted with their dollars.

      As a result, many Canadians won’t miss Target. Walmart does exceptional sales in Canada and could see modest gains as Target closes.

      Canadians will have more options if rumours are true that Aldi and Primark are planning to enter the Canadian market.

  2. I agree about the arrogance. Although, I loved their intro,but once they opened, what a disappointment. It was like a Zellers with a better interior design but with bad prices, they were not even comparable to Wal Mart. No added value in the store. The formula was "deja-vu" but more expensive. Yes it is a lose for the 17000 employees and that really sucks. One thing I know, a manager working there didn’t even buy from his own store, with the 15%employee rebate he had, it was still cheaper to buy the same thing at Wal-Mart..

  3. I’ve been to Target here in Canada several times, not during their empty shelves phase, but never found the store compelling in any way. They have nice home furnishings though, but that’s an infrequent purchase.

  4. When Wal Mart bought Woolco Canada in 1995, they were smart enough to keep some of the Woolco experienced both in the stores and at head office. Target wiped out the Zellers people completely. Perhaps they should have kept a few

  5. There was no room for Target here. Canadians simply could not afford it. Americans are wealthier and taxed less than us. The execution was certainly atrocious but they never had a chance to begin with.


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