Tillicum mall retailers anticipate extra traffic from Target when it opens in May

Retailers at Tillicum shopping centre are eagerly awaiting the opening next month of Greater Victoria’s first Target store, hoping the U.S.-based chain will attract shoppers after months of construction.

“It’s a big empty spot and Target is brand new, so it should be really exciting,” says Vicki Andres, owner of Choco-nuts, a 16-year fixture in the mall. “Everyone will want to check it out.”

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Andres is expecting a surge in foot traffic when Target opens at some point next month. The Minnesota-based retail giant would not give a specific date in May.

Target is spending about $11 million to remodel the former Zellers store, which covers two floors. The Tillicum Zellers closed last summer. The Zellers at Hillside Centre also liquidated its merchandise and closed to make way for a new two-level Target slated to open in 2014. It is under construction.

Target acquired most of the real-estate assets operated by Zellers for nearly $2 billion in late 2010.

Andres does not expect Target to cut into her business, a specialty store selling Belgian chocolate.

She has regular customers who enjoy watching the treats being created in the 400-square-foot store.

But like other retailers, she’s looking forward to the traffic that Target will generate, saying “it’s been a long haul here.”

The parking lot was dug up and construction has been slow and steady since Zellers moved out, Andres said. “I think everybody is just ready for it to be cleaned up and to get back to business.”

Target spokeswoman Lisa Gibson said Tuesday details are being finalized for the opening at Tillicum. Target sells a wide range of products, from furniture and clothing to housewares and hardware products.

At Coles The Book People in Tillicum, customers are always asking when the Target store will open, said Chelsea Bush, a customer service representative. “They are really excited about it,” she said.

She also expects an increase in traffic. Because of Coles’ broad selection, Bush figures the store will not be adversely affected by Target’s opening.

Target opened three stores in Ontario early last month. The first shoppers lined up at 5:30 a.m., but customer reviews were mixed. Some of those who went through the stores were disappointed that prices were not lower. Others expected more selection and higher-quality items.

Meanwhile, British Columbians seemed lukewarm to Target in a poll of 867 respondents conducted by Insights West marketing research company last month.

Just over half, at 55 per cent, had an overall positive reaction to Target coming to Canada. Of those, 18 per cent were enthusiastic. One-third of those questioned were indifferent.

Even so, close to 82 per cent of those surveyed said they will likely go to Target if it is nearby — with 39 per cent “very likely” to go and 43 per cent “somewhat likely,” Insights said in a statement.

Target is expected to deliver tough competition in the budget-conscious marketplace. The poll found 28 per cent of British Columbians said they will shop less at Walmart once Target is here.

Respondents also said they would cut back shopping at The Bay (16 per cent) and Winners, London Drugs and Best Buy (14 per cent).

The survey found 69 per cent of respondents said they had been to a Target store in the U.S., with 35 of those visiting in the past year.

“This level of direct experience with Target outstrips that of the other U.S. retailers that either have not yet, or only recently, entered Canada, that we included in the poll,” Insights said.

“In all, our results suggest that Target is well positioned with British Columbians even before market entry,” said Catherine Dawson, Insights senior vice-president.

As for what people will buy at Target, clothes and home decor are the most popular.

Insights has assumed a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

U.S. retailers are heading north into Canada at a rapid rate. Marshalls and Nordstrom are arriving next year.

Shoppers have also lined up this year for the openings of H&M, Forever 21 and Joe Fresh at Uptown.

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