Thursday, April 16, 2015

David learns from Goliath – Business lessons from the demise of Target in Canada

As Target finally closes its doors in Canada, it is a time to reflect and garner up the lessons to be learned by small business owners.

One size doesn’t fit all
What works in one location, may not necessarily transfer successfully to another
This is one of the most basic rules I learned in community development. While you can learn from what works in one location, taking a “cookie cut approach” is often not wise.

Tip your toe in the water first, before jumping in the deep end.
To open up so many stores in so many different locations seems like a recipe for disaster.  And it was.  Just from a cash flow perspective,  it is better to start small, see what works and then expand.

Do your homework
Clearly it never struck the powers that be at Target that maybe we don’t shop the same way as in the US. It pays to check the details before launching in a big way. 

Marks and Spensers (one of my favourite stores in the UK) made the same mistake when they tried to make a go of it in Canada, but at least they didn’t try to saturate the market.  They started in Toronto and built out to the suburbs.  But they too literally closed up shop and went home.

Supply and demand
One of the complaints I frequently heard was that the shelves were often empty which doesn’t create a) much credibility and b) a desire to come back.

No real deals
Many of us would shop in "Tarchét" as we would call it, in the States because we liked the prices and the quality available.  None of that happened in Canada.  It was like we were the poor relations, getting the cast offs from our sisters in the south.

Long term ripple effect
With over 17,000 people now out of work, you do wonder if this Canadian experience will sour their fortunes in the US.  Apart from the money they have lost in this endeavour, they’ve also lost much more – their fan base in Canada.

So as small business owners, we can truly learn from the demise of Target in Canada.  

We know, what we probably already knew, that it isn’t just a case of expanding and repeating the same strategies over and over.  Because while it is important to have a solid foundation of business practices to build on, you also have to be creative and receptive to the different nuances that each new location/venture will bring.

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