Missing the mark – why you should hate Target

target fail

Last week Target Canada announced that after 2 years of losses, it was going to take it’s little dog and go home, leaving the land of maple syrup and poutine to pick up the pieces of a shattered dream for over 17,000 Canadians.

Sure, Canada can be an inhospitable place when it comes to the frozen retail jungle, with our high taxes, importing tariffs, base labour rates, etcetera, etcetera.  That much we know, so why didn’t the big brains at Target know that?  Maybe they could have nudged a friendly Canuck on the arm and found out what we’re all about, or sifted through the ashes of other failed chains like Radio Shack, Sam’s Club and Marks & Spencer for clues.

Perhaps the giveaway of their eventual demise was their clamor to buy up retail space from the failed Zeller’s chain…an omen of things to come?

We can all sympathize with the dire news that hits us every January in this country, when the bean-counters tally up the coveted Christmas retail sales numbers only to find another chain is waving the white flag and liquidating it’s inventory as sales fell short of what was needed to keep the ship afloat.

For that, I feel sad.  For Target, my feelings are not so benevolent.  It has nothing to do with it being a U.S. chain that invaded our snow-covered borders.  Heck, we were excited to have them here!  We welcomed the enormous bulls-eye with open arms and open wallets.  No, my wrath has nothing to do with where Target came from.  It’s in how they came and how they left.

Target arrived with more fanfare than a Presidential Inauguration.  “We are the great Target, and we will give good jobs to hard-working Canadians.  We will support distributors, vendors, support services, and landlords; bring tax revenue to this quaint little country, and we will take on the much-despised Walmart”.

They traded here on their U.S. strength, deep coffers, savvy buying and great prices all wrapped in a sophisticated retail environment.  They said, in so many words, that they were a huge American company, so trust them.

Vendors signed up to deliver goods without credit check, terms or deposits.  They were happy just to be one of the few chosen to stock the shelves in this great retailing giant. Workers were romanced into leaving good paying jobs to join this amazing company. They all had dreams of long-term growth, as demonstrated south of the border.  And Target traded on their impressive U.S. CV.

But something went very wrong.  Their first store openings were as unimpressive as a beach party during a Canadian snow storm.  Empty shelves, weak pricing, boring selection all had the Canadian shoppers shaking their collective heads as to what Target was thinking.

It never got any better.  Stores continued to suffer from delivery issues, non-competitive pricing, and ineffective advertising.  The only thing emptier than the shelves were the check-out lines. The writing was on the wall right from the first ribbon-cutting in Guelph Ontario.

Bad planning?  Perhaps.  Underestimating the Canadian retail landscape?  For sure. These things are tragic and stupid, but that’s not what has me writing this.  The ire is in what Target did next.

After using the American head office muscle to sway us into a false sense of security with Target, they decided to pack up and leave not as an American retail powerhouse, but as a failed Canadian company that has applied for creditor protection (Canadian version of Chapter 7 – bankruptcy protection).

That’s right – Target, with all its money and influence, chose to slink back south of the border without having to make good on it’s promises to us Canadians.  Besides the 17,000 plus employees that are left in the dust, Target has used a legal loophole to avoid having to pay it’s bills here.  Not as that big American company that used all its leverage to gain favour, but as a uniquely Canadian company unable to cover it’s debt.

So now they’ll leave with hat in hand, saying ‘Gee, shucks.  Really sorry about all that inventory you shipped us, but we can’t pay for it’.  Nowhere is the American parent, still with deep pockets and international influence, swooping in to take care of the mess their offspring created, even though it was that parent who persuaded us to ‘trust’ their kid.

Where is that strong giant parent company, now that all those workers are applying for employment insurance?  What about the suppliers who are hoping to get something from the inventory liquidation process to cover some of their losses – and probably having to lay off more people – the contractors who clean, maintain, and provide security to the Target stores? All out of work, and possibly out of pocket.

There are more, I’m sure that will be affected by this, and many won’t get paid for outstanding invoices.  Target will carry on south of the border as if nothing happened up here, and some of us will still travel across to cash in on bargains, just like they have in the past.

Instead of stepping back into the mess they’ve created and making good on their financial commitments, Target chose to protect itself from taking responsibility for a lousy business strategy, and for causing a huge ripple effect on the Canadian economy.

Shameful…and I hate them for it.

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Things that bug me (but probably shouldn’t)

Bugs meDon’t know if it’s just that I’m getting old and crusty, or I’ve been reading too much of ‘Ben’s Bitter Blog’, but there’s a bunch of stuff that drives me nuts.  Stuff that really shouldn’t:

  • People who call water heaters ‘hot water heaters’….you don’t need to heat hot water!
  • Running out of soap in the soap dispenser and pumping the thing like crazy and finally giving up but not going and refilling it and doing it again later
  • Opening the door to let the dog out and having a swarm of flies come buzzing into the house like they’ve been waiting there all along
  • Cars blocking the right turn lane at an intersection because they’re going straight even though it’s a right turn lane and the 6 cars turning right behind it have to wait until the light turns green…
  • People who don’t have any spacial awareness with their shopping carts and block the aisles in the stores while reading the ingredients on a soup can and no one can go around them and they don’t even notice or don’t care 
  • That smudge on my glasses that I can’t get rid of and it’s dead center in my line of sight
  • Having the coffee maker shut off half way through making a pot
  • Filling the car with gas an hour before the price drops
  • People who mis-dial you and leave a message for someone else even though you clearly identify yourself on the outgoing message
  • People who leave an outgoing message on their answering machine by only providing their phone number – the one you just dialed!
  • Putting your garbage out on a really windy day and by the time the garbage truck comes, the recycling box has blown down the street then you have to go on a search mission to get your recycling boxes back
  • Nose hair….on anyone
  • Dog owners who let their pets ‘go’ on my lawn
  • E-bikes, mopeds or scooters that go too slow to follow, but are on streets that don’t allow you to pass
  • Cars parked directly across from each other on narrow streets, making it nearly impossible to navigate
  • ‘Continental Breakfasts’….bring me bacon!
  • Button-fly jeans.  I’m over 50…buttons are for shirts, not pants
  • 3 ring binders – I’m left-handed.

Ahh!  Now that feels better….

Anything bugging you?

It’s all my fault

cropsI have a confession to make – I’m to blame for everything.

You see, when I shop for fresh fruits and vegetables, I want only the best, ripest, and freshest produce for my family.  Because I only pick the best, freshest and ripest, the rest of the fruit gets left behind and is eventually thrown out by the store.  I don’t want it, and I won’t pay for it, so they have to get rid of it.

Because this is how I shop, the store owners tell their suppliers not to give them any old, bruised, marked, or otherwise ‘unattractive’ product.  The suppliers comply.  It’s about me.  I’m paying, so they have to do what I want.

Now, the supplier is going to go back to the farmer.  He’s going to tell the farmer not to pick anything that has a mark on it, is bruised, or has signs of insects or other natural diseases.  The farmer has to comply, since the supplier won’t buy it from him otherwise.

The farmer, faced with fields of growing crops, needs to yield as much perfect produce as he can, or he’ll go broke.  I won’t buy anything sub-par for my family, so the grocery store won’t buy anything sub-par from the supplier, who won’t buy anything sub-par from the farmer….you get the idea.

Standing out in an open field, exposed to the elements, the farmer has few choices, since his crops are what feeds his family.  He needs to ensure that everything he grows can be sold, otherwise he’s growing nothing but debt.

With few options, the farmer employs the help of chemical sprays to ensure his crops look perfect.  It’s my fault.  I’m the guy standing at the road-side stands, checking each cob of corn for worms.  I’m not bringing those nasty bugs home to my family, so I guess I’m willing to have the corn sprayed, even if that’s not a conscious decision at the time.

McDonalds is my fault too.  Sorry.  Sometimes I’m in a hurry, or just too lazy to cook.  I asked for quickly prepared food – so quick in fact, that I can drive up to a window and have it handed to me, hot and salty within a minute.  I told McDonalds that this is how I want my food, so they complied.  I know it’s not healthy, but sometimes I just need to scarf down some grub while I’m on the run – and if pushed I’d say that I sometimes really crave the taste of a Big Mac.

The big-box stores?  You know it – me again.  I needed variety, long hours and cheap prices for all those toaster ovens, back massagers and iPhones. Sure, there were little stores that had them, but what a pain in the butt, having to drive from store to store.  And I didn’t know when they were open or if they had good prices.

I know, I should have supported the local business owner, but heck, who has time for that?  When I need a left-handed spindle crank, I can’t risk going to a store that doesn’t have it in stock and in 3 colours.  Nope – big box is the way to go.  I don’t know why that strip mall near my house looks so deserted though.  Must be the economy.

Although I’m not a photographer, I’m also responsible for the paparazzi attacks on celebrities.  I just can’t get enough of those tabloid magazines while standing in line at the grocery store.  A 3-headed baby that sings like Elvis?  Are you kidding?  Who’s got the latest ‘baby bump’, and who looks worse in a bathing suit? I crave this stuff.  Because I do, the photographers will do almost anything to get the picture that will entice me buy their magazine.

I was probably the one responsible for Princess Diana’s tragic death.  Can’t get enough of the Royals – I sent those photographers on motorcycles to capture an image of Lady Diana stepping out with her new beau.

See, the thing is, I would love to blame the farmers, or the fast-food places or the big box stores for how they’ve poisoned and cheapened our planet – they’re an easy target.  In the end though, it was me, the consumer, who decided to exercise the greatest power I had.  I gave them my business.  My money.  I told them, through my humble purchasing decisions what I wanted, and they complied.

So, I want to confess.  It’s my fault these things are the way they are.  I was the one making decisions that landed us where we are today.  I hope you can all forgive me.

Anything you’d like to get off your chest?