Was eCommerce to Blame for Target's Failure in Canada?
Target started on the wrong foot in Canada in many ways and their sudden and untimely exit proves that you are never to big to fail. I am sure it will be a case study in business schools for decades to come.
One of the first missteps was pricing. The modern shopper takes about 5 seconds to check a price online and with our dollar at par at the time of Target's Canadian launch, it didn't take long for shoppers point out that something wasn't right with Target's "deals" in Canada. Prices in Canada were higher than on Target.com which was decidedly off-target for their price sensitive shoppers.
Another stumble out of the gate was lack of inventory. Supply chains are everything in retail and in their rush to open stores they got ahead of their suppliers and opened big stores with empty shelves. Any excitement that Target's arrival had generated was soon lost when shoppers showed up for deals that had not arrived in-store yet. I rarely leave my house for a physical shopping trip without first making sure that the items I want are available in the sizes I need at the location I am heading to. The Target.com site is fantastic and includes the ability to both order for pickup at a store, or to check inventory at your local stores.
Which brings me to a final nail in the Target Canada coffin. They did not launch an eCommerce site at Target.ca. Wow. What year is this? With all of the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in setting up in Canada, why did they ignore eCommerce? It is not like they had to start from scratch since Target.com is already fantastic and is one of the top eCommerce site in the US. Target.com will tell me where my local Canadian store is, but won't check inventory or allow me to pickup in store. And it won't let me use a Canadian shipping address. A good eCommerce site at Target.ca would have helped shoppers order the Target products they wanted and would likely have prevented, or at least reduced the disappointment shoppers felt when they put the time and effort into getting through the front door of a Target store in Canada.
I look forward to seeing if Nordstrom's has been paying attention.