Target a win for city, consumers
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013 06:00 am
The shopping scene in Canada – and St. Albert – will get a happy jolt this spring with the arrival of Target, the American retail giant with the distinctive red-and-white logo. The company launched its Canadian advertising campaign during the Oscars on Sunday night, and its hiring program is well underway with job fairs across the country. In all, Target will open 124 stories in Canada and hire some 27,000 people. The store in St. Albert will add 21,000 square feet of retail space and hire 150 to 200 employees. Its official opening is expected around May 1.
Those are the basics. Of more interest to consumers is the “expect more” pledge the chain is making around the shopping experience – bright airy stores, wider aisles, better “on-floor” assistance and, perhaps most important, shorter wait times at the cash registers. All of these elements are a challenge to competing retailers, some of which have already taken action. The Canadian Tire outlet in St. Albert, for example, recently underwent a major renovation with a view to securing the loyalty of its customers. There has been speculation as well that the Superstore at the south end of the city is in line for a makeover. The company has refused to comment.
But the retailer most challenged by Target’s arrival is Walmart, which has made its name and fortune on guarantees of offering the lowest price. The complaint about the Walmart formula is that lower prices come with lower service, says Ken Wong, a professor of marketing at Queen’s University.
“When people complain about Walmart they never complain about prices. They complain about all the things you give up to get those prices – that you can’t get any service.”
It’s a safe bet that Walmart will respond to Target’s challenge and that response, whatever form it takes, is certain to be good for the consumers. That’s the beauty of Target’s arrival – it makes all retailers sharper and the consumer wins. Long gone are the days in Canada when consumers were hostage to high prices, indifferent service and retail owners who were satisfied with both (think Eaton’s).
St. Albert will emerge a winner from this, too. The Target store will entice more locals to shop at home, and will further establish the city as a regional hub for retail and other forms of spending, from health care to dining to leisure activities. St. Albert Centre is already looking forward to new business. General manager Jill Creech predicts more shoppers, more sales and more leasing activity over the next 12 to 18 months. The mall may even expand, she adds. This is an intriguing possibility because it suggests that the city has reached or is reaching a critical mass that will attract even more retailers and businesses.
In short, the arrival of Target is something to be welcomed, both here and across the country. Now if we could only do something to improve competition in the airline industry, retail banking and telecommunications.