Target Pulling Out Of Canada and What Your Small Biz Can Learn From It

Target, Target Canada, Canada

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.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft


I’m a small business, how do I compete with the ‘Big Guys’?

big business vs. small business, business, big, small, marketing, branding

Big business vs. Small business

Your small business is so important, although I’m sure you already knew this. It sustains you, and your family, but MORE importantly it supports the community. This past week, I travelled to a few major markets in the US (aka big cities), and noticed something that didn’t bother me at first, but now that it has had time to sink in, really bothered me.

More and more suburbs, communities, etc… are lacking small businesses. Local coffee shops are being replaced or already have been replaced by Starbucks. Community markets are being replaced by Box Store Groceries, and small towns are being replaced by Wal-Mart’s. Big business is quick to scoop up the little guy or over power them, and what’s being lost is authenticity. Even though I travelled to three large cities within a few hours of each other, they all felt the same. Even the small towns along the freeway resembled each other.

Small business is REALLY GOOD for the community

It’s been shown time, and time again the money consumers spend at LOCAL small businesses stays in the community whereas the money spent at a national or international business lines the pockets of someone at a HQ hundreds of miles away (this is usually called the Local Multiplier Effect). Local small business is the backbone of any / all communities. A Wal-Mart in a small town used to be cheered with joy as if to say, “We’re finally on the map!” Now, people are realizing, a Wal-Mart in a small town is a death sentence. It cripples small business, therefore crippling the community. And worse off, after Wal-Mart sucks up all the money, and shutters the local business community, they have no use for the town, and they close up shop. Leaving people unemployed, and towns far worse off than they were before Wally showed up.

In this case, Wal-Mart can represent any big box chain. I’m lucky enough to live in a community where big business, and small business are balanced. If I want to go to the community market, and pick up fresh produce from local farmers, I can do that. If I want a cup of free-trade coffee, from an independent coffee shop, I can do that too. I also have the ability to go to Home Depot or Starbucks, etc…However, I find myself trying to spend more, and more money with the little guy because I know that money stays within the community I live in.

How to compete as a small business

Using the above to your advantage, you can claim, and keep your fair share of business. Here’s what you have, and the big box chains don’t:

  • A face to the name (you own the business, and you’re in the community).
  • The money spent at your business WILL stay in the community.
  • More personalized service.
  • Ability to adjust to a customers needs (big box chains have lines of standardized procedures, you have more flexibility).
  • You can OWN the community when it comes to top-of-mind awareness.
  • You are a small business, so you don’t have to pretend to be a ‘big guy.’
  • And many more…

Based on the points above, here’s how you can capitalize on your small businesseyness (I’m aware this isn’t a word):

  • Put up your picture, with your personal phone number in your establishment (this literally puts a face to the name of your business).
  • SHOW the consumer how the money spent at your business stays in the community (showcase a local event you’re sponsoring or put up a picture of the local farming family where your grocery store gets its produce).
  • Every chance you get say, and showcase how you’re different than the big box store. Don’t be afraid to attack them. You are merely a blip on the big box radar, so you don’t have to worry about retaliation.
  • If I went around the community where your business is located, and asked 100 people if they could recall your businesses name, how many do you think would be able to do it? Now, if I did the same thing for Starbucks, how many do you think would be able to do it? You can improve your top-of-mind awareness within a 10KM radius of your business by splashing your community with marketing. Big business isn’t concerned about the 1,700 households within your community. They’re worried about the masses, so eat into their market share within your community. You can dominate! (More on domination HERE)
  • Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Be open, and honest about who you are to your customers. If you can’t finance like Home Depot, don’t worry about it, just be sure to INFORM your customers why you don’t finance. They will appreciate your honesty, and this will strengthen the bond they have with your business.

You are who you are, and there’s no changing that. You’re more personal than the big box chains will ever be, and you support the community like the ‘big guys’ can’t. Be sure to play this up time, and time again. Besides, everyone likes an underdog.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

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