On Twitter today, I noted that Target is the Wal-mart for people who don’t want to be seen at Wal-mart.

This isn’t a knock against Target, or the folks that shop there. I have nothing against Target; I usually visit whenever I’m in Americaland. In fact, the last time I was down south, I went to a Target and bought not one but two Snuggies. So clearly I’m in no position to cast any disparaging eyes. (Nor can I point fingers. My blanket has very long sleeves.)

No, it’s more a comment on their branding. I wouldn’t even be surprised if there was some sentence like the above hidden in a market analysis somewhere in Target HQ. Because Target has clearly - and rather brilliantly - positioned itself as a megastore that’s acceptable to a middle-class that has largely come to view Wal-mart as the punchline to a joke about poor people.  (I doubt this bothers Wal-mart too much.  Eleventy zillion dollars doesn’t invite much soul-searching.)

Target’s approach - slick look, low-end price - isn’t a revolutionary marketing strategy. You could fill books with stories about low-price-point brands that gussied up their packaging, bumped their price points up just enough, shook off the stigma of the “cheap” and successfully re-launched as desirable and modern. Target just happens to have done it very well.

Anyway, with all this Target talk in the air today — leading all the newscasts, buzzing up on Yahoo! News, the top-read story on our website - myself and a trusty photographer were dispatched to a nearby Zellers to do some streeters on how Winnipeggers feel about this major new retail development.

And you can see how happy I am about doing it! Photo by Phil Hossack.

While I was pleased to discover that folks are more amenable to being known as Zellers shoppers rather than smokers, there was nonetheless an interesting trend. 

Based on my American and Canadian friends’ near-sexual obsession with Target, I expected general excitement. But almost all of the people we spoke to, when asked how they felt about many Zellers stores eventually becoming Targets, expressed only disappointment that “everything’s going American now,” as one woman said. 

“We lost K-Mart a few years ago, and now Zellers,” said another frustrated shopper.*

I didn’t have the heart to tell them that  Zellers has been owned by an American company since 2006. It just seemed cruel.

*Note: this quote may or may not differ very slightly in the paper tomorrow. The paper version will be correct; it’s my weekend, and I happily left my notebook at the office. 


One Response to “Target Practice”

  1. One fact I would keep an eye on is the jobs issue. I read that Target will be creating quite a few jobs. The current Zellers employees have been told they will have the “opportunity” to apply for Target. So sounds like to me is that there will be a few Zellers folks out of work. There are quite a few that are long term employees that I’m sure will be passed over for minimum wage applicants.

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