I’m not here to speculate as to why Target didn’t succeed in Canada. 133 stores…POOF! Gone. What I can do is outline my experiences with the Target I knew growing up from my frequent trips south of the border compared to the Target Canada model. I can also point out a few things as to what to look out for in your small biz.
Target experiences growing up
- My Mom absolutely loved Target. Any time my family would travel south – Target was always on the list of places to go (this stuck with me as an impressionable kid that Target must have some value).
- When you stepped into Target it had this warm, welcoming feeling to it. It really did feel a step above Wal-Mart.
- You could spend hours in a Target from food, to clothing, to toys, and just about everything else.
- Target was a destination, something to look forward to every year.
Target Canada experiences
- For the most part – it picked cramped spaces to set up, and the lighting was a bit off. It didn’t have the warm, welcoming feel to it.
- The selection wasn’t even close to being the same as to what it was in the U.S. On top of that, most of the brands Target laid it’s cap on in the U.S. would be sold out, and never re-stocked (or so it seemed) in the Canada stores I frequented.
- My Mom no longer liked going to Target. However, she still wanted to go to it when she, and my dad travelled south.
- Target became a commodity. I didn’t have to look forward to it every year, as it was easily accessible.
What your small business can learn from this
Don’t assume that your product / service is going to work everywhere. Just because it works in one place, doesn’t automatically point to success elsewhere. Every time you open up a new shop, restaurant, etc… You have to go back, and start from scratch putting in the time to cultivate the relationship with the community you’ve moved into. Don’t rest your laurels on brand equity. It helps, but it’s not everything.
Experience – this is a big one for me. The brain is wired to expect consistency. It likes consistency, so it doesn’t have to compute as much. It’s so important to ensure consistent service, product quality, etc… across all channels. If your consistent model is to be inconsistent than stick with that. Otherwise, sameness rules. Using Target as an example – my family had these consistent experiences with Target in the U.S., and that’s what got us excited about Target in Canada. However, the experience in Canada didn’t match the experience from the one in the U.S. Target became, “just another Wal-Mart.”
Exclusivity – this one can go either way for me. Yes, people like what they can’t have or only get once in awhile, but it’s not something I would rely on to build a business. When Target was only in the U.S – it was this exclusive experience you could only get once or twice a year. When it moved to Canada – you could get it any time you wanted.
For you – focus on what you can make exclusive, while making other products / services accessible. For example – if you are building a service based business – give an exclusive offer or product to a small chunk of your best customers. At the same time, your regular services are accessible to the masses. Then keep on changing that exclusive offer to include a different set of your regular customers.
For a restaurant – every couple of months you could have an exclusive party reserved for the ‘Top 10 Patrons of the Year.’ It would be invite only, and they could bring their friends…all of it complimentary. This would give you a good chance to get customer feedback as well as introduce new people (friends) to what you offer. This would only account for a couple hours every couple of months, while the rest of the time you’d be open to the public. This plays up on that exclusivity factor, as the people who aren’t partaking in it, WANT to partake in it, and then you can show them how to get involved in the future (email signup, draw, etc…).
Yes, it sucks Target is pulling out of Canada, and the subsequent job loss that is following suit. It just goes to show how volatile the business world can be. It should serve as a reality check for you, and your business.
Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft