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Target arrives in Canada

TORONTO (NEWS1130) – US discount chain Target opened today in three communities west of Toronto: Guelph, Fergus and Milton.

The three stores will serve as testing grounds for a phased roll-out of the brand across much of the country later this year.

In the industry, it’s called a “soft launch,” but that lingo almost certainly won’t keep shoppers away before the grand opening in early April.

Target Canada president Tony Fisher says it’s “important that we can test and work out any of the bugs and kinks that we might find.”

Another 21 stores will open this month throughout Ontario. Overall, the company is expected to open between 125 and 135 locations in Canada.

After the Ontario rollout, Target will begin moving into western provinces throughout the year and eventually into Quebec. None of those opening dates have been announced.

The “Mr. Rogers” theme song is what the US department store has been using in their commercials to advertise their big Canadian opening.

However, are consumers and retailers making too much of this?

“The press is doing what they do, which is make it news, but I think also Canadians are anticipating it,” says Maureen Atkinson, senior partner at JC Williams Group.

She thinks competitors need to be on their toes.

“Retailers who are paying attention … it could make them better retailers,” explains Atkinson. “Anticipating what’s going to happen and putting forward their best game.”

“One of the things about competition, the main beneficiary is always consumers. Increased choice and I suspect even better prices,” says David Soberman, professor of marketing at the Rotman School of Management. “So in that regard, this is a really positive development.”

As for competition from Walmart, Soberman says Target should be fine.

“It will certainly mean less of a free pass, which is what they’ve had for some time in Canada,” he explains.