Last week Target Canada announced they were ceasing operations, and planning to retreat back to Fortress America. As I wrote at the time:
By now everybody knows the big problem with Target: they couldn't keep much stock, and their much-ballyhooed low prices turned out to be a phantom. Last summer I swung by the Bonnie Doon Target store and did some minor price checking: the prices were all higher than WalMart, almost all higher than Superstore, and in many cases higher than Canadian Tire or Home Depot. They were cheaper than IKEA or Mexx. Yay.Well, here it is a few days later and Claire Cameron in the National Post has put up her own thinkpiece about the fall of Target. Her editor even gave it a catch and attentive title:"The answer to why Target is closing lies in the question: Where do you buy a broom?"
What follows is some of the most insipidly banal meandering I've ever seen, and one that never gets to its central question:
After a longer and lonelier time in the aisles of Home Depot, we managed to corner a man in the paint section. His shift was ending, but he took pity on the lost Canadians. “A mop? You’re in the wrong store. Go to Target.”Okay, so the answer to why Target closed was because an American didn't know what products they have at Canadian Tire? Is this what Cameron thinks? That Canadians were just too dumb to know what Target had? (The answer: of course, was that they had nothing. Their empty shelves were one of the major issues). Yet after all this cute story about how years ago a Canadian had never heard of Target and an American had never heard of Canadian Tire, it doesn't say a word about why a major retailer that had significant buzz failed in its launch.
“Yeah, T-a-r-g-e-t,” he said it extra loud and slow.
Target did have a mop. The name made my Mom giggle. And that night at dinner, we told my Californian husband about our adventure. He didn’t really get it. “You don’t know where to buy a mop?”
My husband’s words rang through my ears years later when he immigrated to Toronto. Once again, we were embroiled in the light chaos of a move. We didn’t have a broom. I asked him to go and buy one. He left and two hours later, came back empty handed and was mumbling something about Loblaws and that the hardware store was closed. How could he not know where to buy a broom?
“Did you go to Canadian Tire?” I asked.
“Nah,” he waved me off. “We need a broom.”
My husband loves living in Canada. There are many things he’s come to enjoy about our culture, like health care and our need to agree even when we don’t. But, he’s taken a long time to come around to the idea of Canadian Tire. For years he didn’t think to go there for anything other than snow tires or windshield wiper fluid.
Why is Target closing in Canada? It’s because we all navigate our lives using our culture as a guide. Our past experiences guide our future choices. And our culture is moulded over the years — many more than two. The border is thin, but there are still some things that show the gulf between us and our sisters to the south, like Target.Uh, no? It doesn't answer the queston, at least not the bizarre way Cameron phrases it. We don't necessarily "navigate our lives using culture as a guide". WalMart is doing boffo business in Canada, thank you very much. Forever 21 (or XXI as shoppers would know it is still alive and well in Canada: Mexx is shutting down. Some US invasions went well, some went badly. You can't use "culture" as the catch-all excuse.
The answer to why Target is closing lies in the question: Where do you buy a broom?
Target failed for a lot of reasons. Customers who entered found it was just like Zellers used to be: you had to wander forever to find a mop. And then there was only 2 types still in stock. And both were 15% higher than a higher quality mop at Walmart that had another dozen other mops of varying prices and quality next to it. Cameron is asking an interesting question. It's a shame she has such a banal answer.