The plan was code-named Project Bacon, and as it sizzles toward completion next year, it is changing the Canadian retail landscape forever.
On storefronts across the country, the red bull’s eye will soon replace the red “Z.” Thousands of cashiers will lose their jobs. And the Canadian public will have a new place to shop for “cheap chic” goods.
Project Bacon is the tongue-in-cheek name given to U.S. retail giant Target’s plan to break into the Canadian market — one of several revelations contained in a recent B.C. Labour Relations Board decision that also details the fate and value of Zellers’ pharmacy files and prescription information about thousands of customers.
The LRB decision denies a union bid to have the collective agreement at the Zellers at Brentwood Mall in Burnaby — the only unionized Zellers in B.C. — to apply to employees at the new Target store eventually planned for the mall.
It is estimated about 27,000 Zellers employees across the country will lose their jobs as a result of the deal between Target and HBC, which will see about 125 Zellers stores closed and the space used for new Target stores.
In addition to considering the Brentwood collective agreement, the LRB decision outlines Target’s plan to establish itself north of the border, where executives believe consumers are “highly aware” of the store and its “perceived good value and shopping atmosphere.”
Target eventually purchased more than 180 Zellers leaseholds for about $1.8 billion, including Zellers’ pharmacy files that were valued at $10 million.
According to the LRB decision, Target later learned it could not legally hold the prescription information because it was not actually operating a pharmacy at the time.
The records were then sold back to Zellers, which resold the majority of them to Loblaws for $35 million, while the B.C. and Alberta records went to a “different entity, for an unknown amount.”
The LRB decision also sheds light on the perceived differences between Zellers and Target, citing an expert witness called by Target who visited six Zellers stores, five Target stores and two Walmarts.
Stephen Hoch concluded that while “Zellers’ stores typically were very crowded, had bad sight lines and the shelves were piled high with junk,” Target, among other things, had “sparkly clean floors,” according to the LRB decision.
“The classy design esthetic associated with Target does not exist at Zellers and never has existed," said Hoch's report.
“Given Zellers shabby experience, many more-affluent consumers are less likely to visit than will be the case with Target.”
The LRB decision sums up Hoch’s comments, saying that “while Zellers is cheap, it is not cheap chic like Target.”
Target Canada spokeswoman Lisa Gibson said she was not familiar with the name Project Bacon but confirmed the first B.C. Target stores will be opening this spring.
The company will hire about 150 to 200 staff per store, and while former Zellars employees are guaranteed an initial interview, “we need the flexibility to hire the best talent.”
Asked about the differences between Zellers and Target, Gibson said “Target stores are clean, clutter-free and easy to navigate,” and the majority of Canadian stores will include a Starbucks and Target pharmacy.
Outside the Brentwood Zellers Saturday, shoppers said they were concerned about the number of American-owned companies in Canada but that wouldn’t prevent them from shopping at Target.
“I’ll shop at Target for sure, but at the same time I worry about too many United States stores coming here,” said Tracy Pasztor. “But Target’s a nice store.”
Athena Boyd said she was disappointed with the selection at Zellers, especially for her needlework.
“It is sadly lacking here,” she said.
Walter Nikolychuk said he misses the Zellers pharmacy, which has already closed, but he’s found a new place to get prescriptions filled.
According to the Target Canada website, there will be more than 15 Target stores in B.C.
By 2014, Project Bacon will be realized with about 125 Target stores open across the country.
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