By now, most of you have already heard the news.
Target is pulling out of the Canadian market entirely, and choosing to focus on their American operation only. They tried to make a go of it in the GWN, and for myriad reasons that lots of other people have written about, they failed.
Now, I am not one of those people who complained about Target coming here. I didn’t even complain when they opened with great fanfare and empty shelves. The Canadian price markups didn’t bug me, nor did the fact that they tried to sell me a bunch of stuff I could already buy in Canada (Beaver Canoe, Nygard).
I have a deep and unapologetic love for Target. It started thirteen years ago, when I was living in the US and didn’t have a tonne of spending money. I started buying most of my clothing there, because it was inexpensive and everywhere. After I moved back to Canada, I would take regular trips across the border to visit my home away from home. Stuff was cheap. It was decent-looking.
Back in these days, Target partnered for limited-run collections with some of my favourite designers: Proenza Schouler, Liberty of London, Jason Wu, Thakoon, Mulberry and Missoni to name a handful. Nice pieces, too. Stuff I kept and wore for years. Some stuff I still wear. With these collections, scarcity was key. I couldn’t bank on there being anything left in my size on my next trip to Buffalo, so I would buy whatever was there. At full price. Happily. I was Target’s target.
Then, Target announced that they were coming to Canada. I was ecstatic. Believe it or don’t, but “proximity to Target” was on my list of reasons for choosing the street we currently live on. And it wasn’t even open yet.
Once our local store was open, I would hit it once or twice a week and always come home with something. I’ll concede that the selection was never what I really wished it would be, but they had milk, and makeup, and here’s the thing: it was dead. The store was pretty and bright, none of the carts were janky. I could grab a coffee, throw my kid in the cart with a dinky and spend an hour or two checking out every single aisle. It was almost meditative.
Target was near the top of the list of things I expected to miss when I stopped buying stuff. I have still been popping in often enough, because Target gift cards are my son’s currency of choice and they sell groceries I am allowed to buy. There have been very, very few items that have caught my attention in the past five months, and none that I couldn’t easily pass up. There was a day early on, back when I think my feelings of withdrawal were strongest, when I really wanted to go walk the Target. Thinking back on that now, it’s the environment I wanted. The pretty, quiet store. I didn’t even want the stuff they had, and I understand how that’s not a viable business model.
Target was easier to give up than I thought, but I think that expecting it would be there when I was done this experiment was consoling in some way. Now, I know it won’t be. All the stores will be closed before my August 31st end date, so I won’t get to cash in on liquidation sales, and I’m not sad about that. Target has nothing that I want.
Let me say that again.
Target has nothing that I want.
If we don’t know each other well, it might be harder to grasp what a fundamental shift this is for me. Trust me that this is huge. This might be the single most important indicator that this project is working.
I don’t know what Target’s closing means for the Canadian retail landscape, but I hope at least some of us will see it as an opportunity to support more local producers and re-sellers. And if you’re reading this, and you’re looking to hire friendly, knowledgeable sales people, let me personally vouch for the team members of the Bedford Place Mall Target. They’ll make you feel right at home.