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Everything you ever wanted to know about Canada

It is hard to overstate the significance of Target’s entry into Canada in terms of the impact it will have on the company’s growth and the marketplace overall. You would have to go back to 1992 and Walmart’s acquisition of 122 Woolco stores to find an event of similar magnitude, and even that deal comes up short compared with Target’s plans to open as many as 150 stores beginning in early 2013.

Given this momentous event and the turmoil and opportunity it will bring to the marketplace, Retailing Today decided to join forces with Canada’s leading training and strategic consulting firm, Sales Is Not Simple, to create a first of its kind event called Canada 101: Understanding Target’s Next Market. This half day conference is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 10 in downtown Minneapolis.

“Retailing Today wanted to equip suppliers with the insights they need to be successful in Canada and the best way to do that was team up with Jeff Doucette and Skip Stoelzing with Sales Is Not Simple,” said Retailing Today editor Mike Troy. “Jeff is a native of Canada and a seasoned CPG executive with extensive knowledge of the market, while Skip is a former Target executive with a broad perspective gained by holding a variety of position at the company. They possess a wealth of knowledge regarding the market, the competitive climate, insight into all the ways that Canada is unique and what it will take to be successful.”

The latter point is key according to Doucette who contends the top mistake most companies make is assuming the Canadian market is just like the United States.

“Canada does have a lot of similarities to the U.S. market, however we think that vendors who truly understand the nuances of doing business in Canada from the retail landscape to the consumer will have an advantage over those who apply a ‘copy and paste’ approach to the market,” Doucette said. “Target’s entry into Canada is definitely exciting news, and we think that current vendors to Target will have meaningful opportunities to grow their business north of the border. The domestic Canadian market also holds lots of opportunities for U.S. vendors that have not viewed this as a growth opportunity in the past.”

There are about 36 million consumers in Canada, and they are concentrated along a narrow, but wide area along the border with the United States. That’s a key reason why even before Target opens its first store in Canada the company enjoys strong brand awareness.

“We’ve been visiting cities throughout Canada, and conducting what we like to call listening and learning tours. The valuable insights gained from these conversations is helping us to clarify our plans and develop our strategy,” Michael Francis, Target’s chief marketing officer and the executive in charge of leading the company’s entry into Canada told financial analysts earlier this month. “We were pleased to learn that nearly 70% of Canadians are already familiar with the Target brand. Eleven percent have shopped our stores in the past year, and more than 30,000 are currently REDcard holders.”

Early indications are the version of the Target brand that is familiar to Canadians could be somewhat different than what they experience when the first stores open in March 2013. Because the stores acquired from Zellers are smaller than the typical Target space, allocation decisions are being made now.

“While we expect to bring the breadth of Target’s U.S. merchandise assortments to our Canadian guests, we’re conducting an in-depth evaluation of the Canadian consumer and the competitive environment to determine how we want to allocate space to each category in our Target Canada stores,” Francis said.

To learn more about Canada 101, visit www.salesisnotsimple.com/products-services/Canada2 or download the Canada 101 Brochure.

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