Target Canada expects to begin liquidating stock in stores within the next two to three weeks, a spokesperson confirmed today.
“That’s our expectation,” said Eric Hausman, after Target Canada Tweeted the timeline in response to question from a shopper.
“We just don’t have anything definitive.”
Target announced last week that it is pulling out of Canada, closing all 133 stores less than two years after launching here, a move that will leave 17,600 people jobless. That does not include those affiliated with Target for example, the employees at the Starbucks locations within Target stores.
On Monday, the Stockyards Target — the first Target store in Canada to be built from the ground up according to Target specifications instead of being renovated — was somewhat busy, with shoppers looking for bargains.
“We thought we’d get some deals. They don’t have any deals,” said Ryan Goodfellow, 28, a chef who was shopping with his wife Claudia, 30, a baker. They bought a pair of black pants and two packages of undershirts, but they weren’t happy with the prices.
“This is why they’re shutting down — they’re so expensive,” said Claudia.
The couple estimated that the same items at Walmart would have cost them significantly less.
“It’s a big box store, I’m not sad to see it go,” said shopper Tara McMillen.
Michael Luongo, 27, said he is indifferent to the fact that Target is leaving Canada. “Walmart is about the same.”
The laid-off retail workers face grim job prospects as they dust off their resumes and start looking for work, according to labour experts.
“I suspect they are feeling some anger and some very genuine fear,” said Brock University labour expert Kendra Coulter, noting that many retail sector staff work only part-time hours.
“Many of them will not be eligible for employment insurance and are facing a very scary future.”
Angella MacEwen, the senior economist at the Canadian Labour Congress, says it could take between six months to a year for the employees to find replacement work, particularly given the cyclical slowdown in the retail sector during the post-holiday season.
“January and February is not a great time to be looking for work and, with a whole bunch of people at the same time flooding the labour market, there are a lot of people who are going to be out of luck,” MacEwen said.
Workers affected by Target’s exodus from Canada are likely to struggle to pay the bills while they look for their next job, MacEwen said.
“These are minimum wage jobs, and a lot of Canadians in that position are living paycheque to paycheque and can’t really go six months without regular pay,” she said.
“It’s looking like it’s going to be a significant struggle for these workers and their communities although, over time, they will be reabsorbed. They will be able to find work eventually.”
Target is not the only retailer to close stores and lay off workers in Canada recently. Clothing retailer Mexx declared bankruptcy last month and will close all of its stores, including 170 in Canada. The company employs 2,800 people worldwide. Meanwhile, Sony plans to close its 14 remaining Canadian locations, a move that will affect 90 employees.
The retail cuts come as the broader economy also faces challenges, including cuts in the oilpatch.
Statistics Canada said the economy lost 10,700 jobs in November and another 4,300 jobs in December as gains in full-time employment failed to keep up with the losses of part-time jobs.
The two months of losses followed big gains in 74,100 and 43,100 in September and October, respectively.
Some of the laid-off workers at Target will be able to move to other service sectors that face staff shortages, such as the hospitality and restaurant industries, according to Jackie Ross at retail recruitment firm JRoss Recruiters.
“There are other service-industry sectors that are still clamouring for employees in their labour force,” said Ross.
Target Canada’s U.S. parent has set up a $70 million trust fund to cover employees’ severance payments. The company said most workers will receive 16 weeks’ pay.
But Lee Harbinson, an employee at the discount retailer’s Pickering Town Centre location, says it’s not a real severance package, as many employees will still be working during those 16 weeks.
Harbinson, who works part-time unloading trucks and stocking the clothing section, said he wasn’t surprised by the news, as he had watched sales languish for the nearly two years he worked at the store.
“I’m not in panic mode just yet,” Harbinson said. “I saw this coming from a mile away.”
Sears Canada is encouraging the Target workers to check its website this week for information about job fairs. It’s also offering its employee discount to Target Canada workers for 16 weeks starting Wednesday.
- With files from The Canadian Press