Lessons from Target’s Canadian Mishap

sale tickets at fashion store

In the first week of 2015, Target announced it was closing all 133 Canadian stores after just 2 years in the market. One of the greatest retail blunders in history.

All of a sudden, every notable person in the industry has some golden advice to share with the falling conglomerate but as they say, “hindsight has perfect vision”. So, taking this multimillion dollar fail into our consideration, let’s see how we can approach our lessons from Target – this extremely successful retailer who has a major market share in both the US and Australian market.

Learning from the Professionals’ Golden Advice

  1. “Target should have studied their market better. Canadians are very different shoppers to the US”


coupons heaven cartoon Retail Express

For multi-store retailers wishing to expand into different regions, it is so important to study your target audience. And this doesn’t only apply to different countries, it can vary even from suburb to suburb. Take a small store in a community driven suburb on the outskirts of Melbourne and compare that with a high street store in the center of Melbourne. Your audience will clearly be quite varied and although this may seem obvious, it certainly pays to do your research.

In the case of Target, they simply applied a practice of coupons that worked marvellously in their US market but for the discerning Canadian audience, coupons simply didn’t have the same effect. Had Target researched this fact, they would have discovered that Canadians have a much lower uptake of coupons in many of their lower priced stores compared to the US.

 Image courtesy of webdonuts.com





  1. “Target underestimated their competition in the market – WalMart”

Assess your target market and then assess your competition. Your current location may not have many competitors but your new destination may. And sometimes, it’s not just the number of competitors but the way the audience reacts to those competitors.

walmart store Retail Express

In the case of Target, their main competitor of WalMart exists in full force in the US however, WalMart took a very different approach to entering the Canadian market and therefore found greater success and now growth due to Target’s demise. Target increased their prices in their new Canadian stores compared to that of the US with shelves regularly understocked. Perhaps they assumed the Canadian market wouldn’t realize the prices were different or perhaps they moved too quickly. All of which comes down to careful planning and research.

Ensure you research statistics of sales in that area and compare with the actual traffic in that area. Perhaps, you could even speak to some of your competitors and determine what are their challenges and opportunities. One conversation can sometimes have the ability to reveal so much more than weeks and weeks of research.


Image courtesy of Forbes.com




  1. Success leaves clues

Are there any other retailers in your industry (and even not in the same industry), who have made a similar move before? Perhaps you could research what they did, the timing (seasons), launch strategy and assess their success. One very valuable approach and sometimes the most undervalued is to actually go and speak with other retailers who have made a similar move to you. Don’t stop at just one. Speak with as many retailers in similar shoes and learn from them, take notes and then do it better.


“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”

Albert Einstein

For more information on Australia’s market-leading cloud based retail POS software, Retail Express, please drop us a line www.retailexpress.com.au/getstarted or call 1300 732 618

Aaron Blackman is the CEO of Retail Express. Follow Aaron on Google+ and LinkedIn

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Date of Post: 2015-02-26

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