Category Archives: Business

Kensington Market and Springdale: The Battle of Progress

Kensington vs Walmart

Springdale v Punjabi

Gentrification…

Zoning Changes…

Big Box Stores…

All those words drum up every emotion from fear to anger to joy, and often times it exposes the Ugly beast I call NIMBY, but the reason they evoke such a variety of emotions is because they all mean the same thing; Change. Read the rest of this entry

You Know What Really Grinds My Gears…

you-know-what-really-grinds-my-gears… U.S. Retailers coming to Canada

No, I’m not a free market hating, Pro-Canada business only, anti-competition lefty

No it’s not because they drastically increase the price of their products when they come to this Country (that’s a whole other rant for another day)

No what Grinds my Gears about American retailers when they come to Canada, is that most Retailers forget one of the biggest reasons we make the trek through US customs and spend hours in the car with screaming children

Selection

As a seasoned shopper on both sides of the border, one thing that has always drawn me to shop south of the border is the wide variety of products that are available in stores such as TJ Maxx, Carter’s and Target. And while American retailers coming to Canada is not new (Sears, Home Depot and Wal-Mart have been here for decades now) the recent reports have indicated that there will be over the next few years an influx of additional retailers coming to Canada to hock their wares.

To which I say:

Thanks but No Thanks

(Can’t believe I just quoted Sarah Palin, ugh!!!)

When it was initially reported roughly 2 years ago that Marshall’s was coming and that other retailers such as Kohl’s, Target and Neiman Marcus were ready to follow, I was happy cause I felt that we as Canadians would be able to get the same great selection that was available on the other side of the border.

Then @Marshalls opened…marshalls-coupon

And I started to lose that warm fuzzy feeling…

Marshall’s (for those that don’t know) is part of the larger company called TJX which operates Marshall’s, Home Goods & TJ Maxx in the U.S. and Winners and Home Sense here in Canada. The appeal of all these stores is that they offer brand name products for less or so the tag line says. Now in Canada we have been used to the selection of clothes and products that have been offered at Winners for years, which to say it kindly was limited. Often you would find that there were never any shoes that were better than what you could find at most flea markets and while the clothing was designer labels especially in the woman’s department, it often lacked size availability especially for the big & tall men like me. This was often just the start of the problems that you would find at Winners but in all honesty it was actually very Canadian in its selection. It lacked variety and flare but was serviceable for most, just usually not me (I’m not a MMA muscle shirt with skulls and what looks like a bad tattoo kind of guy, just sayin’) so their selection kind of went with the flow and didn’t offer anything special.

Now Marshall’s in the U.S. is largely different as they offered many of the brands that we are used to; Coach, Michael Kors, Nike, Adidas and those are just in the shoe collection. Urban brands that have largely been forgotten about up here (and mainly replaced in all stores with the above mention bad muscle shirts), are still found in many Marshall’s locations south of the border. Brands such Sean John, Apple Bottoms, Rocawear and even Mecca (and no we are not talking about the terrible Stitches brand that haunted high schools with ExCo) can be found in Marshall’s within many stores across America.

Well that brings us to Marshall’s arrival in Canada.

Lines were long and thousands of dollars were spent in those first days when Marshall’s first open their doors here. While many people are still overjoyed with Marshall’s entry I look at it sadly as Winners with more shoes. Yes, they deserve credit for adding to the ladies brands for less shoe game and have added a small amount of products to the Men’s and Children’s shoes as well as children’s toys, but largely what Winners offers Marshall’s offers a bit more of it. They lack a lot of the brands that in America makes them a go to destination, and they seem like they were neutered to fit the Canadian model. Most importantly they lack the sizing options in the styles that you will often find in the U.S. because offering one size 14 pants in a style for children is not truly offering that size. Not offering a Big & Tall section in your store, is not offering a size selection to meet the population.

Strike 1

Now in my early years I was never too concerned with going to Wal-Mart when I went state side, general thought was “Its Wal-Mart how much different can it be”.

HOW WRONG I WAS…

First let’s just get the aesthetics out of the way… For a country that professes healthy eating, why do the American Wal-Mart’s have a Subway as their in store food option and we are subjected to McDonald’s, I’ll never quite understand. But on to the real issue and to illustrate my point I’ll throw some names out there for you and let’s see if you recognize them.

  • Miss Tina by Tina Knowles
  • Faded Glory
  • Marie Callender’s
  • Jif
  • Luv’s
  • Angel Soft/Quilted Northern

These brands you see listed above might be known to many of you but outside of a few stores here and there the only name you’ll see in a Canadian Wal-Mart is Jif and it will be in a small jar only. Now there are some brands that like to limit their product availability to select markets for reasons beyond my understanding considering how much the marketplace is global, but if I’m Wal-Mart the largest retailer in North America with my buying power there should be some say in opening up the availability of the products I buy from you. And while the reduced selection could also depend heavily on Canada’s strict regulations, but I have a hard time believing that Marie Callender’s way of making their food could be that different from Stouffer’s. So where does that leave us, that Wal-Mart Canada selection is much like Winners selection; very pedestrian, very Canadian selection of products that doesn’t challenge Canadian’s to experience something new.

Disclaimer note: Some credit can be given to Wal-Mart for bringing some previously unseen brands to Canada when they first started here

Strike 2

Now comes the straw that has broken the camel’s back2010-09-03-The-Straw-That-Broke-The-Camel's-Back

The much heralded, much anticipated and sadly over-hyped launch of Target in Canada.

There was talk of how much this would change the landscape of retail within Canada and that many of the current retailers here were going to be swallowed by this massive giant known as “Tar-jay”. While the jury is still out on its overall impact on the landscape of Canada’s retail market (I’m looking at you @SearsCA), what I can say about their current status within the marketplace is… meh!!!

Now as I have said what I have always enjoyed about shopping in America is generally the selection of products and brands and sizes that you can get, and while @target_ca has some uniquely Canadian products available (Roots clothing) and some of their typical brands available in America (Shawn Whyte clothing) their selection is overall weak sauce.

To start selection involves more than just the clothes or food you sell, it is in everything that you offer, and in the US, Target offers so much the second you walk through the door. Most American Target locations come equipped with some form of food selection similar McDonald’s in Wal-Mart, which is usually a Pizza Hut with pop, Icee drinks and Popcorn and some sort of coffee shop. It’s a nice touch and helps to complete the entire shopping experience when you’re in Target stateside.

Here we get Starbucks… StarbucksFreakin’ Starbucks!!!

That’s it…

Now we Canadians like our coffee and we seem to be warming up to coffee shops not named Tim Horton’s, but Target couldn’t have come in any weaker in their front store amenities. Speaking of the Front store, I distinctly remember the articles hyping that the cheaper products that Target is known for having at their front entrances would be here too and to their credit it is there but come on!!! Comparing the size of the section here to the size of the section in America is like comparing the size of the fan base of Phoenix Coyotes to The Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s a joke and it’s just a small indication of the problem that they have with their stores here and IMO It’s as if all the cojones that made Target a serious challenger to the monster that is Wal-Mart was frozen and surgically removed once they reached the 49 parallel. This is a small issue in the overall scheme of things but they are also part of the things that made Target a unique brand.

Speaking of brands, their brand selection is the most frustrating part of their launch here, specifically speaking about their own in house brands Market Pantry and Archer Farms. Now I’m not generally crying about their cheaper brand Market Pantry because I would put it somewhere in between Great Value and No Name brand products, in that it’s nothing terrible but nothing to write home about. My real issue is with their high end brand Archer Farms which to me is on par with and occasionally better than PC brand products, for its variety and quality. Once again it comes down to a matter of comparison in terms of variety in what they offer and here is a simple example. In their US locations Target has a wide array of Archer Farms spices offering everything from the standard archer farmsblack pepper, salt, paprika and garlic to more unique items such as saffron, smoked salt and ancho chili powder. So me being the foodie that I am, I was looking forward to getting easy access to this great variety without the drive. But of course as with everything else they don’t offer it here, any of it, not even their black pepper but oh low and behold they do offer McCormick’s spices which you can get at every other supermarket and superstore in the country.

Now there are many other things that Target lacks offering just like Wal-Mart which lends one to ask how are they really any different from Wal-Mart or from their predecessor Zellers? At least those 2 offer many of the ethnic food selections that you are less likely to find in the States.

Well the answer so far is simple they aren’t and until they step out and are bold with their brand and their selection they will just be another weak clone of its American parent and to that I say…

STRIKE 3: Your Out

But what do you think of Target’s arrival into the retail marketplace here in Canada?

Do you plan on shopping at Target here or are you going to still shop south of the border?