Thursday morning Target announced that they will be closing all 133 stores across Canada, less than two years after their grand opening ceremonies in the country.
From a financial standpoint the Canadian migration was an expensive move that has not paid off. And from a branding standpoint, Target never really got it right enough to make it matter.
Yes, Target had some fun ads and branding materials in Canada and in the US over the last 24 months, but look at these next five points and see why it just wasn’t enough…
From day 1 there were complaints about Target. What should have been a day of celebration and victory for the brand turned sour when customers took to social media to complain that shelves weren’t stocked and stores were half empty. And that wasn’t because there had been a rush of shoppers in taking advantage of Black Friday-esque prices, it was just poor planning and execution by the brand.
The Data Leak
The Target customer data leak was an embarrassment for the brand and a breach of trust for their community. The customers who had shown their highest loyalty to the brand by giving them their personal and financial information were hurt the most.
The leak dropped trust in the brand to near 0% and cost them any momentum they may have been building in a new market with millions of potential customers waiting to be drawn in.
Like it or not, Target was always going to have to go toe-to-toe with Walmart to find success in Canada… and they failed. From understocked shelves to underwhelming price points, Canadians never flocked en masse from Walmart to Target.
Perhaps perception was to blame, as Canadian shoppers who knew the Target brand were used to paying American prices for products during cross-border shopping trips. But when they excitedly walked in the doors to shop at Target in Canada they were faced with higher prices and fewer goods than they expected.
Whether Walmart won, or Target lost is up for debate. But there was only one survivor.
Location, Location, Location.
Target moved to Canada and moved into Zellers locations across the country. It was a flawed move from the beginning as many of those old Zellers stores were in awful locations, and had been for years. What may have seemed like a smart investment at the time, proved to be fatal now that the brand is calling moving trucks to take them home to the United States.
It’s fair to say that Target never truly built a strong and loyal brand community in Canada. Customers didn’t travel to many of the retailer’s locations, they didn’t find outstanding value in their products or price points, and they never came to care about the brand.
The combination of mistakes listed above certainly played a part in all of this not working out for Target, and they clearly felt like they were too far behind to catch back up.
Would that brand community have become bigger, stronger and more loyal given more time? Probably, but we’ll never know.