When I first heard you were coming to Canada, I was probably the only person I knew in a radius of 500 miles who wasn't wildly excited. That's because I knew what "coming to Canada" would mean. It wouldn't mean American Target prices. It wouldn't mean American Target clearance deals at the end of every aisle. It wouldn't mean American Target stock, either.
I wanted to love you, I really did. Your commercials were a hit: the patch-eyed dog riding shotgun on the motorbike was irresistibly cute (being a non-dog person, this was an odd place to find myself), the poppy tune was catchy, and the charm of all those Canadian landmarks had us by the heartstrings. FDPG was agog by the clever juxtapositioning of the Target symbol alongside a solid red heart and a maple leaf. "LOOK! Target loves Canada!" she would shriek delightedly every time we drove by. All the pre-teen and teen girls I know were in a palpable tizzy, plotting their pre-dawn raids at the two store openings. Even more telling, the local retail competitors: London Drugs, Shoppers Drug Mart, Save On Foods, even Walmart, were slashing prices left right and centre as they quaked ever so slightly in their boots. Slashing prices is SO not the Canadian way, which is how I know they were quaking. We do things quietly.
So it was hard to remain both silent AND in a state of anticipatory gloom, but for the most part I managed. I AM Canadian, after all.
When you finally opened, Dominic, FDPG, and I waited until the second day before we went on a tour of inspection. We'd been warned that this particular store had had a "soft opening" (read: wasn't fully stocked), but even I was taken aback. There were entire aisles of empty shelves, plastered with tiny signs saying things like "We're in the process of stocking up. Thanks for being patient!"and distressingly large spaces of...nothing at all. Even worse, the store takes up two giant floors, with the children's section on the lower floor and the change rooms on the top floor. I don't know about you, but I LOVE having to navigate several sets of busy escalators while my kids sit half-naked in a change room, waiting for me to get 6 more pairs of jeans, dresses, or tops for them to try on (there is a 6 item limit in the change room).
FDPG's mission was to wheedle the cost of an ice shaving machine out of my wallet, so we went to inspect them. They were $10 more here. I know this because I was in Bellingham three weeks before that and I'd taken careful note of the prices. I also noticed that there were 5 varieties. Target Canada had 1. I am not one for reading the stock market pages in the newspaper, but even I know that the exchange rate is better than that.
So we trundled over to the cosmetic section. If the aisles had had any stock in them they would have been impressive, but again, the emptiness was a bit disconcerting. The prices were also higher than most places I shopped at. I asked a stock girl if she knew anything about Target bringing in any items in the Boots line, because if there is one line cosmetics that thrills me, it's the Boots line, but she knew nothing of this. "The what line?" she said uncertainly, "don't think so." "Can you check?" I asked. "No, sorry," she responded. And yes, that WAS how we left it: me wondering why she couldn't check and her wondering why I wanted so much effort of her.
FDPG thought we could salvage the situation by checking out the food aisles and doing some cost comparisons, but again, the prices weren't great and the products we loved most in the American Targets just weren't there. In most cases we noticed that Walmart is cheaper, too, by about 10%.
Nice one, Target. I mean, we're glad to have you, but we're not that stupid. We won't willingly pay more just because you're you. It's almost insulting, to be honest. If you're going to do well here you have to do your research on what it is that Canadians like about Target. It's not what you think it is.
And fill those shelves while you're at it.