Richmond-based London Drugs is ready to consider Target locations destined to close and may offer jobs as well.
“We are always looking at opportunities to expand,” said John Tse, London Drugs vice-president of pharmacy, on Thursday. “There are a number of attractive locations,” Tse said, but he was not specific.
U.S.-based Target Corp. said Thursday that it is closing all 133 of its stores in Canada because they are losing money. It will record about $5.4 billion US in pre-tax losses in its fourth quarter with most related to the Canadian operation, which is seeking creditor protection.
Vancouver Island Target stores are in the Hillside and Tillicum shopping centres, and in Nanaimo, Courtenay and Campbell River. There are about 750 employees on the Island. Closing dates were not announced.
Target says the stores will remain open during a court-supervised liquidation period and it's working to ensure employees are paid at least 16 weeks of severance from a $70-million fund.
London Drugs has 78 stores in Western Canada, with nine on Vancouver Island. It is always looking for top-quality staff, Tse said. “When they [Target employees] are ready to come to us, we will be happy to see if they can fit our environment.”
Information geared to Target employees is being distributed to store staff rooms, said Christine Willow, chief operating officer for GT Hiring Solutions.
“They can come and see us and we can work with them,” she said. This could mean helping a worker find another job, assisting with resumé-writing, or looking at government-funded training or wage-subsidy programs.
Melissa Lane, a regular Target customer at Hillside, lamented the job losses.
“It’s really too bad because the staff here are really helpful.” The employees she has seen range from high school students to older employees close to retirement.
Irene Harrison, who lives near the Target at Hillside, wrote to the company with ideas on how to make it more appealing to seniors, such as putting groceries on the ground floor and opening a café. There was no response, she said.
“If they do not have any concerns about their Canadian customers, then no wonder they have lost money and are pulling out. What a shame for all the employees and the malls where they are located.”
The two-storey, 147,000-square-foot Hillside store was built in place of a Zellers store and opened last year. The 122,000-square-foot Target in Tillicum Centre opened in May 2013.
University of Victoria business professor Steve Tax said Target’s arrival in Canada was “dramatically disappointing.” Supply problems were evident when stores opened.
“The selection was poor. The prices that people had expected to be comparable to the U.S. model were not there. So there were really high expectations and kind of low delivery in terms of the key attributes that people were expecting.”
It is difficult to know which retailers might want such large spaces, Tax said. With the rise of online shopping, demand is often for smaller space.
Michael LeBlanc, senior vice-president of the Retail Council of Canada, said it could take months for the empty stores to be filled. Because Target stores are so new, they are in “great shape,” LeBlanc said. Some space might be converted to other uses, such as offices, he said.
This story has been edited to add a figure