Last week I visited a Target in Canada for the first time. These are my general impressions.
The store was impeccably clean and beautifully laid out. (Of course; they just opened it.) At the end of every few aisles was a little “help station” with a store map, price checker, and phone line for asking questions.
I thought this was great. But Target has a vested interest in helping consumers find products. It bespeaks the malaise of other Canadian retailers that such conveniences are even notable. This isn’t a new idea, unlike the innovations that Kmart seems to be churning out nowadays:
Target clearly attempts to offer more premium products than other retailers, and in broader selections. One example where they’ve succeeded (I’m aware of it simply because I’ve been looking for this product at other retailers) is shower shelving. Target had about ten options — and in premium finishes like brushed nickel — whereas Wal-Mart had just a few options.
But the price tags at Target floored me. A review of the flyer yielded “deals” no better than those found in the flyers of the now-graciously-extirpated Zellers. Regarding the shower shelving example above: Wal-Mart’s offerings were between $15 and $30, while Target’s were $35 to $50. The “premium” food offerings (an onion ring example is below) are also really freaking pricey. All they offer is a lame price guarantee that is, for all intents and purposes, exactly the same guarantee offered at Wal-Mart.
OK, they’re not trying to compete on price. I get it. But for that reason I don’t think Target is going to shake up the Canadian retail landscape to the degree that many people expect. For starters, Wal-mart has clearly geared up to meet Target’s challenge (e.g. nicer towels and premium foodstuffs). Vancouver has had an IKEA since 1976. I’d say the real potential for stealing market share in the Canadian retail sector still lies in the hands of dollar stores. Target is settling for a replication of its American role: being the second banana. But if that strategy was profitable in a market as small as Canada’s, why close down Zellers?
Now for a quick food review. Long-time readers know that I’m an onion ring aficionado. The best rings are made with panko breading (bread crumbs made from bread without crust). A&W’s onion rings are a fast food example of this ideal practice. I’ve never been able to find this awesome product on store shelves before. And then I saw these at Target:
Here’s the final product:
Delicious? Yes. But they lacked seasoning and thus tasted bland. I also preferred my homemade onion rings because they were freshly fried — there’s a certain “je ne sais quoi” that gets lost in the freezer.