Off Target: Bad at Chasing Retail Tail

Posted on April 14, 2013

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I can’t tell you how excited a bunch of us ladies got about the debut of Target Canada a couple of weeks ago.  My sister and I, her friends, mine, my high school teachers from like 20 years ago, my friend’s friend, my coworkers—all of us on Facebook were going!  We weren’t just gonna check it out, we were each actively setting aside a timeslot in our mad-busy schedules for this shiny new retailer!  It was like prepping for a date with someone we knew would be a winner.  We had each expected to fall in love.  From our cross-border shopping days, we all had learned that Target had Walmart-prices, but carried some higher-quality collaborations with designers, the way H&M teams up with Stella McCartney, Comme Des Garcons and Martin Margiela.  We have heard of Sarah Jessica Parker shopping there–and Michelle Obama wearing Jason Wu for Target!  Not to mention, this insane list!  And since we haven’t been able to depend on Canadian retailers to see, care or do…an American company it is!

Nobody ever shops at Walmart for the fashion.  Now we can!  At Target!!  My sister and I even jokingly started referring to it as “Targée”, our new discount fashion house.

For us girls, it has never been cheaper to look this great.  The industry that sells us the smoke and mirrors of Looking Good, for its own survival, has had to remove the high price tag for the everyday girl to participate.  There is no fooling this YouTube tutorial-watching chick who can DIY Scarlett Johansson’s whole face from a drug-store palette; get a good-enough version of her dress from Winners/discount online retailer and take home a sample of the Dolce and Gabbana fragrance from Sephora until she’s sick of it, or loves it.  You can’t make her pay more for this stuff when it’s never been so obvious that she doesn’t have to.  Also, you might think you can take advantage of her seeming ADD with all these new brands being stuffed in her purse or shipped with her purchase every time she shops, but if you blow that one shot she’ll give you to switch, it’s over.

Target Canada, promising to host such magical brands at real prices, had bought out the footprints of our own failed big box discount retailer, Zellers (who died because of Walmart).  So, when it opened its doors the other week, us women all over the GTA each had a location within our sights.  We were ready and willing to cheat on Walmart!

Target had posted a pretty handsome profile picture online:

Tony Fisher, 38-year-old CEO of Target Canada

Its ads were reminiscent of the monochromatic iPod ones before Apple took over everything:

First point of entry: I immediately did screwface at the totally inefficient self-check-out, with like 2 places, and 30 people in line.  There was even a Costco “were-you-honest?” receipt-checking staff at a podium before shoppers left.  But I looked in their carts: toilet paper, Tide, crackers and the odd dehumidifier.  Weekly stock?!  Why of course they’re  going to be in line during the debut week at Targée, then!

This store concept was very much like Walmart with toys, FOOD, women’s clothing, electronics etc. all in one place.  But I can’t vouch for price comparisons of most sections because I made a beeline for Cosmetics!!  Pressed powder, check.  False eyelashes, check.  Favourite moisturizer, check.  Obscure concealer, no.  But it was all pretty much the same price and selection as Walmart.  (I later went to Shoppers Drug Mart in the same plaza and noticed it had slashed its prices in abject fear, no doubt).  OK, not bad.

It was at least, a lot brighter than Walmart—a lot of white and red, not dingy blue and grey.  And well, it’s not so hard to top the floor staff of Walmart either.  In fact, when I asked one salesperson for the Women’s Department, she said, politely, “It is, literally, straight down this aisle”.  Walmart staff might not have made this important distinction. lol

So, so far, I could rest assured that most of my cosmetics were all representin’ at Target should Walmart somehow wrong me in the near future.  Like morally.  Does anyone still discuss how it takes life insurance out on its employees??  Also, I never went to Walmart for the fashion, EVER.  So, I took a deep breath before breaking into a run towards what it all came down to at Target: Women’s Clothing!

Aaaand stop.  Hmm.  What do we have here?  Black wrinkly Mossimo polyester shirts for $24.99.  Dozens of them.  Oh, in off-white too.  Mossimo?  Really?  This is like the Pierre Cardin of women’s clothing—a long sold-out (in a bad way) once high-end brand that’s been dining out on un-curated licensee agreements since the 80s.  i.e. fugly.  And all that is wrong with our consumerist machine and thoughtless crap.  Ugh.  W-w-where’s the Marc Jacobs and the Jason Wu higher-end c-c-crap? 😦

Fine.  What about Accessories?  Hmm, there seemed to be some kind of in-house brand dangling its instantly forgettable quasi-Euro-sounding name from every cheesy handbag, end-of-dye-lot scarf and Payless-esque pair of shoes.  It was all kind of like “Jessica” at Sears—the Kryptonite of any woman with eyeballs and a wallet.

Who does the buying at this place?!

Why has Target forsaken its Canadian customers, who were just looking for the one thing that would differentiate it from the bungling and crashing of other retail noise??

I think the most telling moment was when I went to the washroom at Target.  The Walmart I go to doesn’t really have a nice one.  Target’s could’ve flashed-back to a 90s nightclub.  So, I got all in there, ready to go, and got as about exposed as a customer could get, when I realized there was no toilet paper—just dual toilet roll cores clink-clunking together like useless wind chimes, mocking my searching hand.  I sighed, gathered up all my parts, both grateful and annoyed that I hadn’t committed yet.  And moved onto the next stall.  When I was done, there was an employee-signed sheet pasted up for the benefit of customers, I guess, that gave check marks across the board for allegedly fulfilling every need including replenishing toilet paper.  Only a half-hour before.  Really.

Screen shot 2013-04-14 at 12.58.40 AM

Zellers was also bright, red and white.  At least it was Canadian.  I never shopped there.

Don’t worry ladies, I heard Nordstrom’s coming.  And Nordstrom Rack is sure to follow! 🙂

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Oh Targée, your business practice looked a lot more outdated than your photo :/

[Note: I’m not into useless consumer spending, but I still believe in a business that can possibly cut through the crap, and get it right.]

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