The Canada served up to Americans when they visit the country’s pavilion at Disney’s Epcot Center in Orlando is one of lumberjacks, lakes and abundant wildlife roaming virgin forests. While those elements exist, according to Jeff Doucette, a resident of Calgary in the Western province of Alberta and founder of the strategic consulting firm Sales Is Not Simple, the Canada portrayed at the Disney resort is far removed from the average Canadian’s daily existence and the marketplace Target will enter in 2013.
“As Canadians, when we go to Epcot we wonder where is this place,” Doucette told nearly 100 attendees who gathered last week in Minneapolis for “Canada 101: Understanding Target’s Next Market,” an event hosted by Retailing Today. “Canada is a very urban country and it is getting more urban.”
In fact, more than half the population of nearly 35 million live in the 10 largest cities, with the big three of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver accounting for more than 11 million residents.
“We are becoming much less British and French in our makeup and more multicultural. Our economy is being driven by immigration and it is something we are proud of,” Doucette said.
His insights into the demographics of Canada may seem basic, but Americans are notoriously ignorant when it comes to understanding the most elementary things about foreign countries even those we share a border with. For example, do you know who is the prime minister of Canada?
The point being, even though the United States shares a border with Canada and English is spoken there, Canada is a vastly different country full of potential risk and rewards for Target related to its acquisition at the beginning of this year of 220 Zeller’s leases. The first of those stores won’t open until 2013, but the point of Canada 101 was to provide existing Target suppliers and those aspiring to start a business relationship with the company a base level knowledge of what makes Canada unique.
For example, seasonal opportunities vary considerable as Doucette noted, “We have some weird holidays in Canada.”
The nation celebrates Thanksgiving, but does so on the second Monday in October as opposed to a Thursday in late November in the United States. Turkey is the main course unless you are in the province of Quebec where it is ham. The early Thanksgiving means there is no equivalent to Black Friday in Canada that would serve to kick off the holidays, according to Doucette. However, Canada does have a holiday call Victoria Day that falls the Monday before May 25th and serves as a big seasonal event because it marks the beginning of summer.
“It is attention to these types of little details that are going to make or break Target’s entry into Canada and the same is true of its suppliers,” Doucette said.
In addition to holidays and seasonal opportunities that are different from the United States, Chris Whitaker, a partner with the Toronto-based Explorer Shopper Solutions research consultancy, noted that, “Canadian shoppers shop differently than those in the United States.”
Demographics are somewhat similar to the United States in that the native population is aging to the point where within a few year a larger percentage of the population will be older than 65 than younger than 14.
“This is going to have huge implications for product mix, stores layout and promotional activity,” Whitaker said.
There will be population growth, but unlike in the United States where it is driven by Hispanics, in Canada the top countries for immigration are the Philippines, India, China, the United Kingdom, the United States, France and Iran.
“Consumer confidence is much higher in the Canada than in the United States and people rate their job prospects as good,” Whitaker said. “We can’t find people to work in some parts of Western Canada, which is one of the reasons we have the immigration we do.”
By the way, the prime minister of Canada is Stephen Harper.