News that Target is closing up all its Canadian stores sent a chill through the air Thursday to rival the winter wind blowing across the region.
The company announced it is closing all 133 of its Canadian stores, including the one in Thames Lea Plaza in Chatham, leaving 17,600 employees unsure about their future.
Dean Bradley, president of Brad-Lea Meadows, which owns the plaza and leases the space to Target, said he knew the company was having difficulties in the Canadian market, but didn’t think the reaction would be to back out of the country.
“It’s been in the news for quite a while about their struggles,” he said. “But the fact they pulled the plug like that is a big surprise.”
Target had lost more than $1.5 billion in its time in Canada. A statement from Target’s head office was blunt.
“After a thorough review of our Canadian performance and careful consideration of the implications of all options, we were unable to find a realistic scenario that would get Target Canada to profitability until at least 2021,” the U.S. parent company’s CEO Brian Cornell said in a release Thursday.
Bradley said he’s particularly sorry for the staff at the local Target.
Thames Lea Plaza is also poised to lose Staples, which is relocating beside Future Shop off St. Clair Street in the coming weeks.
Bradley added he’s already putting feelers out for potential new tenants.
“We’re working on and have some interest from a number of parties. There’s a lot of work and elbow grease involved,” he said.
Bradley said he doesn’t expect to hear from Target any time soon.
“If they’re going into receivership, it is going to be a fairly long process,” he said. “For the time being, they’re continuing to operate. That’s a positive.”
Brad-Lea Meadows revamped the plaza extensively prior to Target opening in mid-July of 2013. Target started opening stores in Canada in March of 2013 and very aggressively opened store after store that year.
Bradley said he dealt mostly with the real estate department of Target out of Minneapolis and said they were very professional and “very good to deal with.
“But it’s almost like as soon as their operational side took over, the problems developed,” he added. “I think the fundamental problem lies with their supply chain and inventory. They just couldn’t get their act together. It’s pretty dramatic for them to have crashed and burned so fast.”
Such problems included getting the stock to the stores and onto the shelves in a timely manner.
The Chatham Target store was just one of many in the chain that suffered from delays in receiving stock. Too often, store shelves were bare.
Stacie Formosa is a periodic Target shopper in Chatham. The Chatham Voice caught up to her outside the retail outlet Thursday morning. She said she enjoys shopping at the store, particularly for the REDcard deals.
“It’s always really nice and clean too. I’ll miss it,” she said.
Another customer, who didn’t want to be identified, said she showed up Thursday after hearing Target was ceasing Canadian operations to see if there were any deals. She admitted she wasn’t a big fan of Target, as too often items she sought were not in stock.
Stuart McFadden, deputy director of economic development for the municipality, hopes another company will pick up at least some of the pieces.
“Hopefully someone else will see it as an opportunity and open up under another banner. It’s happened many times before,” he said.