Walmart Canada is welcoming applications from displaced Target employees after the U.S. retailing giant announced Thursday it will shut down Canadian operations.
“We are sorry to see a competitor leave the Canadian marketplace as we believe competition is ultimately good for customers,” said Andrew Pelletier, Walmart Canada’s vice-president of corporate affairs and sustainability.
“It’s always sad to see job loss. We are always looking for great talent and we would welcome applications from those who are interested in joining Walmart,” he said in an email to the Toronto Star when asked about helping unemployed Target workers.
Canadian Tire chief executive officer Michael Medline sent a note to all his staff Thursday morning that it’s business as usual at the big box chain.
“It’s never been our culture to take pleasure when others don’t succeed -- and it’s obviously very difficult news for more than 17,000 Canadians who will now need to find work,” he said.
“We have always welcomed a competitive marketplace. We have a long history at Canadian Tire of raising our game for our customers in the face of strong competitors.
“In the meantime, our strategy for growth and serving our customers remains unchanged. We’re fortunate to be part of such a strong company and brand that Canadians trust. Let’s continue to stay focused on the work ahead of us,” Medline said.
A Sears spokesperson said the decision is indicative of just how competitive the retail marketplace is in Canada, and urged shoppers to instead visit its struggling department store chain.
“We feel for the families who are affected,” said Vincent Power in an email.
“As for Sears, we will continue to focus on serving Canadian families with great quality product at affordable prices…and we invite shoppers who are looking for great value to visit their nearest Sears store or sears.ca to see what’s new for themselves and their homes,” he added.
Meanwhile Canadian grocer Sobeys Inc., a supplier to Target Canada, quickly weighed in on the surprising retreat.
“We were disappointed to hear Target’s news today,” said Andrew Walker, Sobeys’ senior vice-president, communications and corporate affairs.
“We’ve enjoyed a productive working relationship with Target Canada since we announced a wholesale agreement in 2011 to supply Target’s Canadian stores with, primarily, temperature-controlled products. Sobeys can confirm that the loss of this wholesale account will not have a material impact on our results,” he added.
Despite the mostly gentle reactions from Target’s competitors, analysts say many are actually ecstatic that the U.S. retailing behemoth is turning tail.
“It’s very positive for them. It’s one less competitor to worry about,” said David Kincaid, managing partner of Toronto retail branding firm LEVEL5 Strategy Group.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if some retailers are high-fiving the news,” noted Michael Mulvey, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management.
He added big box retailers are breathing a sigh of relief, knowing they are under less pressure to reduce prices.
But Mulvey noted there are lessons to be learned from Target for other retailers: “Be true to your brand and make sure you deliver on that.”
“For Canadian Tire and Dollarama, we view this as a modestly positive development,” said Peter Sklar, analyst at BMO Nesbitt Burns.
“Target’s impact on these retailers has been minimal, as category overlap between (them) has not been as broad as initially expected prior to Target’s Canadian arrival,” he said in a note to clients.
Sklar said the only retailers who will potentially benefit from Target’s exit include Loblaw’s Joe Fresh apparel line and pharmacy and grocery retailers in the health and beauty aids category.
Loblaw Companies Ltd. (which owns Shoppers Drug Mart), Hudson’s Bay Company and Saks Fifth Avenue (which is preparing to come to Canada and is owned by HBC) said they had no comment on Target Canada’s exit.