A blog series on Shopper Marketing

By Cyndi Pyburn

The news is out. Target is leaving Canada …. along with its bulldog mascot with its tail between its legs. Target bit off more than they could chew.

Target was reputed to have ‘done their homework on the Canadian marketplace’. They were in a ready position to target [no pun intended] the great white north. I think we can fully agree that they did the unthinkable: Target under-estimated Canadian consumers and Canadian competitors. With very weak sales immediately after it launched in Canada in March 2013, Target failed to satisfy Canadian customers while other retailers filled the gap.

The missteps:

  • Target under-estimated Canadian competitors like Canadian Tire who focused on improving their operations prior to their arrival and acquiring some key strategic businesses.
  • Target under-estimated the expectations of loyal Canadian customers who found the Target merchandise here disappointing (where were the designer labels?) compared to what they were accustom to in the USA.
  • Target under-estimated the operational challenges, struggling with inventory issues, merchandising assortment and poor pricing perceptions.
  • Target under-estimated Canadians in general. We have unique needs and wants compared with our American counterparts.
  • Target under-estimated the impact of their advertising (their ads were very engaging) set very high expectations that in no way matched the in-store experience.

Target has had almost 21 months to rectify these missteps. There really are no excuses for this retail blunder. So for retailers and marketers, what is the lesson? For both Canadians and Americans, you need to know a) who to win with and b) how to win with them. Target failed on both accounts.