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Sears Canada’s (SCC.TO) CEO says Target’s departure from Canada’s retail landscape should be seen as a warning to foreign players looking to expand into the market; ignoring regional tastes isn’t an option.
Target Canada has faced criticism from consumers since its 2013 Canadian debut over perceived ignorance of Canadian sensibilities and a homogenous nationwide merchandising strategy across its 133 stores.
“The reminder for the market is, when you focus on the consumer you win. You can’t just cookie cutter a strategy into the market and have it play out the way you want,” said Ronald Boire, the company’s acting president and CEO in an interview with BNN.
He says the diverse tastes of Canadian consumers present an interesting challenge for retailers, adding he was surprised Target didn’t work through its issues.
“How you merchandise in Toronto versus Montreal versus Calgary is three different propositions. To me, that makes it a very interesting market,” said Boire.
Boire also emphasized the importance of having a variety of sizes and iterations of products on hand across locations, perhaps in reference to ongoing frustration voiced by Target shoppers over empty shelves and subpar selection.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER TO ECOMMERCE
Boire says Sears Canada is focusing on optimizing the company’s ecommerce strategy. Online shopping has been a significant stumbling block for Target Canada. Target.ca isn’t equipped for online sales. The site lacks product search functionality, and essentially serves as an online extension of Target flyers, directing customers to the nearest brick and mortar store.
BNN asked Target CEO Brian Cornell how a customer would locate a specific item on the Canadian website in October. He responded by encouraging people to head to the nearest Target store.
“We feel like there is a big big opportunity. We already have a large ecommerce and direct business. That helps us be much quicker and much more flexible in serving our Sears Canada customers,” said Boire.
Sears Canada promised a new online shopping experience in 2015 that has yet to be unveiled.
SEARS ON THE ROPES
Despite more than six decades of experience in Canadian retail, Sears Canada is still far from the top of the retail pile, even without Target as a competitor. Boire is the company’s fourth CEO in three years.
Sears Canada ended a number of leases in prime locations in a $400 million deal last year and cut 3,000 employees over the course of 2014 under continuing pressure from U.S. entrants like Wal-Mart (WMT.N) and Costco (COST.O) as well as growing adoption of ecommerce platforms like Amazon (AMZN.O).
A recent ad campaign featuring actor Mike Myers and his brother, who according to the ad has worked for the company for 32 years, was aimed at reviving the brand’s nostalgia value with younger consumers.
Last year, Sears Holding Corp. (SHLD.O) failed to sell its 51-percent stake in Sears Canada, opting instead to lower its ownership to roughly 12 percent through a right’s offering.