Supplier interest high for Target’s Canadian entry

The departure last week of Target chief marketing officer and spearhead of the retailer’s entry into Canada, Michael Francis, was a significant development in the retail world, but someone forgot to tell the company’s suppliers.

At a “Selling Target,” event last week at The Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, there were 110 suppliers in attendance and the departure of Francis to become president of JCPenney wasn’t really an issue, according to Jeff Doucette, founder of the Canadian retail consulting firm Sales Is Not Simple, which organized the event.

“We feel that the launch will be just as successful in Canada without Francis as success will lie with the operational teams on the ground here in Canada,” Doucette said.

The bigger issues on the minds of those attending the event, according to Doucette, were when Target will begin taking vendor appointments for particular categories, how the relationship with Canadian food wholesaler Sobeys will work and how Target expects to achieve its brand standards for service given labor rates in Canada are higher than those in the United States.

While there are some major operational considerations to be sorted out prior to the first stores opening in 2013, Doucette contends suppliers need to be focused on Target now to ensure that they properly structure their teams to support the Target business and mitigate volume risks as Zellers stores go dark and are renovated to Target stores.

“It is also important to identifying unique opportunities and offers that will excite Target buyers and guests, many of which have long lead times for execution,” said Doucette, who expects Target will do business unlike any other retailer in the Canadian market. 

“They are strong marketers that put the brand first before operational efficiencies although Target’s practices from head office to the store floor are world class and highly efficient.”

Doucette is scheduled to lead a follow-up event on Nov.10 in Minneapolis in partnership with Retailing Today called, “Canada 101: Understanding Target’s Next Market.”