The outside of a Target store next to Willowbrook Mall in Langley

Target to close all stores in Canada, including 19 in B.C.

U.S. retailer says profits too far away to continue, Canadian subsidiary files for creditor protection

U.S. retailer Target is abandoning its short-lived foray into Canada.

The company says it will close all 133 Canadian stores, including 19 in B.C.. It employs 17,600 people in Canada and the closures could throw thousands out of work in this province.

Target chairman CEO Brian Cornell said there was no realistic scenario for the money-losing Canadian arm to reach profitability until at least 2021.

It was granted protection from its creditors in Ontario Supreme Court Thursday.

“We had great expectations for Canada but our early missteps proved too difficult to overcome,” Cornell said. “Personally, this was a very difficult decision, but it was the right decision for our company.”

The Minneapolis-based retailer has B.C. locations in Campbell River, Courtenay, Nanaimo, Victoria, Saanich, Burnaby, Richmond, Coquitlam, Delta, Surrey, Langley, Maple Ridge, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Kamloops, Kelowna, Vernon, Cranbrook and Prince George.

Target stores will remain open during a court-supervised liquidation.

Target is placing $70 million in an employee trust to ensure a minimum 16 weeks compensation, including wage and benefit coverage for workers not needed for the full wind-down period.

The decision came after an unsuccessful holiday season, Cornell said, despite best efforts by Target Canada to win over shoppers.

“There is no doubt that the next several weeks will be difficult, but we will make every effort to handle our exit in an appropriate and orderly way.”

The American retail giant launched its Canadian expansion in 2013, buying up former Zellers locations and arranging grocery stock through Sobey’s.

SFU business and marketing professor Lindsay Meredith said Target’s invasion of Canada was misguided from the start.

It launched with too many stores at once, he said, and it immediately turned off Canadians savvy to lower U.S. pricing when it instead charged prices in line with Canadian retailers.

“That was exactly what Canadians did not want to hear,” Meredith said.

When stores opened they were missing some of the U.S. brands in home decor and fashion shoppers wanted, he added.

Further blows that entrenched the retailer as a “screw-up” in Canadian minds included a massive data breach at the U.S. parent and recurring problems with empty store shelves.

“Empty shelves is a retailer’s kiss of death,” he said.

The latest challenge for Target has been the dive in the loonie to 84 cents U.S., which has left the company bridging a growing gap between what it pays for stock in the U.S. and what it sells it for in Canada.

But Meredith said he was surprised Target opted for a complete Canadian pull-out, coupled with creditor protection, rather than what he calls a “hedge hog defence” of retrenching to a small number of more profitable stores in key markets.

Big winners from Target’s demise will be established retail and grocery chains like Wal-Mart, Loblaws, Canadian Tire and even Sport Chek, Meredith predicted.

“All these guys will be happy – they just got rid of a major competitor that could have hurt them.”

He expects the stores will be sold piecemeal to multiple buyers “who will bite off a piece of the whale carcass” rather than to one replacement chain.

Other retailers have also struggled lately, including Sears, and fashion outlets including Mexx, Jacob and Smart Set also intend to close.

But Meredith said Target’s withdrawal will send a particularly strong warning to other U.S. retailers considering Canadian expansion, such as Nordstrom’s.

United Food and Commercial Workers local 1518 spokesman Jason Mann said Target’s failure to hire former Zellers workers meant it lacked staff experience to make the operation work.

Target Canada’s B.C. locations


Just Posted

VIDEO: LEGO fundraiser builds playground purse

Inspired families built LEGO creations, helped Silver Creek build playground

Sunshine Valley songbird releases EP

Fifteen-year-old Ashley Pater has been singing and performing since age 9

Rescue boat theft marks third in 3 years for Agassiz-based SAR team

Eight-metre Spirit of Harrison rescue vessel was stolen Friday night, found Saturday morning

Hope stylist holds hair-athon for a good cause

Shayla Ross donating all proceeds of $10 cuts to the food bank

Hope arena turns green for hockey tourney

A second attempt at green ice, with proper ice paint, after food colouring experiment last year

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Anti-pipeline protestors block Kinder Morgan tanker near Seattle

Protest was spurred on by the 28 anti-Kinder Morgan activists arrested in Burnaby

Some surprises in new book about B.C. labour movement

“On the Line” charts history of the union movement back to the 1800s

B.C. cyclist races to first win of the season in New Zealand

Casey Brown captures Enduro title by more than two minutes at Crankworx Rotorua

Horse found stuck in muddy field rescued in Maple Ridge

Maple Ridge firefighters set up a pulley system to drag the horse to solid ground

VIDEO: Two Maple Ridge contortionists have sights set on Cirque

The Pair competed at the Viva festival in Vegas and are now auditioning for spot on America’s Got Talent

Notorious Russian troll farm also took swipes at Canadian targets

Targets included oil infrastructure and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Cirque du Soleil aerialist dies after fall during Florida show

Longtime performer fell while performing in VOLTA

Canada earns second Paralympic Games silver in 20 years

Held 1-0 lead in para hockey game from 12:06 of first to dying seconds of third and lost in overtime

Most Read