On Feb. 23, hundreds of shoppers queued along a Toronto city block for the chance to grab a blouse or frock created by fashion designer Jason Wu for Target. Open for just one day in a former condo sales centre, the Target pop-up shop offered Canadians a chance to buy a piece of a collection that caused stampedes across the U.S. when it launched there earlier in the month. But while there was plenty of buzz around Wu, who was in attendance, the event’s purpose extended beyond hyping a single clothing line. A year before Target’s first store openings in Canada, it marked the beginning of a string of events the company is planning to begin teaching Canadian consumers about the American retailer. “We’re still working through the details,” says John Morioka, Target Canada’s senior vice-president of merchandising, “but we definitely see the opportunity to do unique events to help educate Canadians as to what they can expect when we enter in 2013.”
The pop-ups are also a way to keep the Target brand in the minds of shoppers as existing Canadian retailers get ready for the fight of their lives. In early February, Wal-Mart Canada announced plans to invest $750 million over the next year in expansions, renovations and 14,000 new jobs. Sears Canada also said recently it would slash prices on more than 5,000 items.
According to Target Canada president Tony Fisher, it’s not just the consumers getting an education. “Coming from Minneapolis where there are many Target stores, it was interesting to come here and shop at places like Canadian Tire and the grocery stores to see where customers go, and what they are used to getting,” he says. Canadian tastes also diff er from those in the U.S. “Things that Canadians like from a food perspective, for example, are different from flavour profiles in the U.S.,” says Morioka. But while the company is still tinkering with the mix of items Canadian stores will offer, the executives hope the Wu collection showed customers the value proposition will be the same here as it is south of the border: most items were only $20.