Big box retailers see opportunity in Target’s withdrawal

A map of Target (in red) and Sony (in yellow) stores in southern B.C. Target also has stores in Prince George, the Okanagan, northern Vancouver Island and Cranbrook.

Need-to-know news and insight for Friday, Jan. 16

Target’s march into Canada has come to an end. The company announced Thursday that it would end its Canadian foray and shutter its 133 stores and lay off 17,600 employees. Seventeen of those stores, and a small proportion of its employees, are in B.C. (see our map).

So, what went wrong? In a post on Gawker, one former employee pointed to a breakdown in the company’s supply chain and an unrealistic timeline for its rollout. “There was no way for stores to know what was at the Distribution Centre, and what was arriving each day by truck. Stores had ZERO idea,” their source writes.

And poor locations didn’t help: “We HAD to renovate (in most cases extensively) 124 old Zellers locations within a 1-year period across the country after taking on the leases, as the major landlords would not allow for these stores to be closed for longer than that.”

In total, Target spent $4 billion in the launch of its Canadian operations and recorded $2.5 billion in losses. While Target’s problems were largely internal (bad locations, poor supply chain), coupled with Sony’s exit from Canada (also announced today), the retail retreat will pose plenty of questions for American retailers with an eye on Canada. 

Its absence also poses questions for plenty of Canadian shoppers. Foremost, was it pronounced Tar-GET or Tar-ZHEH. We’ll never know.

Silver lining
Target’s pain was every other big box’s gain on Thursday. Canadian Tire Corp. and Loblaw Co. saw their stocks jump by 2.9 and 2.3 per cent respectively on the news that Target was headed out. Home Depot quickly announced that it plans on hiring 650 employees in B.C. for its busy spring season. In a small, highly competitive market like Canada, less competition is “obviously a positive,” said Manulife fund manager Monika Skiba in an interview with BNN.

Dianne Watts has a new job
Former Surrey mayor and possible Conservative candidate Dianne Watts has been named the inaugural CEO of Surrey’s Health Tech Innovation Foundation. The organization, which launched January 15, is tasked with leading the city’s ambitious ‘Innovation Boulevard’ project, which would turn King George Highway into a hub for health technology companies. Adjacent to Surrey Memorial Hospital, the foundation’s office will open in April, providing early-stage companies with access to resources and office space. As for Watts, she announced last fall that she would seek the nomination to run this year for the Conservatives in South Surrey-White Rock.