Documenting Canada's abandoned Target stores

This past January, Target Canada announced it was seeking protection from its creditors after taking huge losses due to a rapid expansion plan that failed to capture the attention of Canadian consumers. By May, all of the company's 133 retail locations were closed with virtually every last bit of merchandise, including store fixtures themselves, being sold off.

The bottom line is, the American chain missed the mark in trying to compete on both pricing and selection north of the border, especially with its major competitor Walmart. Now, a Tumblr called "Abandoned Targets of Canada" is chronicling the chain's slow, sad decay.

Square One Mall in Mississauga, Ontario housed just one of the many stores that left tens of thousands of retail employees looking for new jobs when the chain closed. That same mall was also home to a Walmart Supercentre. So on more than one occasion I personally walked from one to the other looking for deals, only to realize that almost anything found at Target was available at Walmart for cheaper. The writing was on the wall.

Even in the store's last days when people were glad to take everything off of the shelves at a 90% discount, the deals still somehow seemed like an underwhelming version of Black Friday. Maybe it's because when I walked into the store for the last time, the only thing left was overpriced dog food and cheap Easter-themed baskets.

Just like that, as quickly as Target came to town it was gone. All of the hype and hoopla surrounding the chain's arrival and the promise of competitive pricing turned out to be as empty as the store shelves themselves. Now all 133 abandoned locations stand as barren relics that will only live on in business management textbooks as case studies of how not to implement a mass expansion strategy in real life.

“Often, the cases that you read about when you go to business school are about successes. My belief is just as much can be learned by looking at failures and trying to understand what were the problems.” – David Soberman, marketing professor, University Of Toronto


Of course there will most certainly be a new retailer in town hungry to fill up all the empty real estate Target has now left behind. American outlet Nordstrom plans to open its first store in Vancouver on September 18th as part of a considerably more conservative expansion plan than the one Target initiated.

For now, ex-Target locations from Nanaimo, British Columbia right through to Bedford, Nova Scotia and everywhere in between will sit around collecting dust, much like the Target products that were available for less at competing stores.

“Expect More, Pay Less” was Target’s slogan… “Expect Less, Pay More” was the reality, leaving 133 retail buildings now open for rent.


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