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Why Canadians are paying more at Target Add to ...

And if I’m not home for dinner, the only other place I’d be is at the hockey rink or the baseball field. It doesn’t mean that you shorten your time investment in the job, but maybe it means that you’re in the office earlier in the morning.

You were a baseball player, weren’t you?
I was, in a former life. I played in the Texas Rangers [12] organization. So I was drafted out of my third year of university, and I played for three seasons. And after my third season, it was kind of my life crossroads—do I play baseball for the rest of my life, you know, until I’m in the big leagues or bust, or do I get a real job? And I probably sent my resumé to 50different companies. I got an offer from Target, because I interned here in university. I started as an entry-level business analyst and I haven’t looked back since.

So tell me a tip about Target that you got at the hockey rink.
Well, first it was, don’t change a thing. And I always get, are you going to have Shaun White [13], are you going to have C9, are you going to have Archer Farms potato chips? They will go item by item and make me swear in blood that I’m going to have them in the store. And of course I turn into kind of media mode and say, well, we’re going to replicate that brand experience. But it’s amazing how passionate people are. And they want to know that we’re going to be competitive, and that’s an easy one to answer.

So how much higher will prices be?
It varies. To be perfectly honest...

On average.
Because we match the retail marketplace, we are doing competitive-pricing shopping all the way up until the first day we open stores. And so our pricing differential could be different in six weeks or two months from now.

You’ll be doing it once a week?
Absolutely. Yes, on a subset of items. For example, you might com-shop an item in one store that might change in price and you can make an assumption across a marketplace. Or you might com-shop items within Toronto that might be different in Winnipeg or Vancouver.

Right, because in outlying regions, things are always priced higher.
Yes, so one of the things we’ve found is that, I would say across the country, there’s not a huge disparity. We haven’t found significant double-digit variations across the general basket across the country, which is very different in the U.S.

What was one of the biggest surprises for you when you moved here in August, 2011?
I wanted to be a consumer here, so I could say exactly what it is like to shop at Loblaws or Sobeys or Metro or Fortinos on the grocery side, what it’s like to go to Canadian Tire or Home Depot, or to shop at Walmart or Shoppers Drug Mart. One of the biggest surprises early on was just how many different places I had to go to get what I wanted. There was a lack of one-stop shopping. Now, Walmart exists, but it’s the consumers’ mentality. It was just kind of part of the norm.

So that’s a challenge—to get people into that new habit.
Absolutely. We want to convert our customers to guests. We’re not going to win if people are coming to our store one time to see what all the fuss is about and then going back to their routine. We have to make Target part of people’s routines.

Analytics is your specialty. What have you learned about the customer base and what you need to do?
We have a deep investment in what we call guest insights, [14] and that gets translated into business intelligence. We can see shopping patterns, so where a guest will come into our store and buy a certain brand of deodorant that isn’t one of our top sellers. But they’re also buying toys, apparel, food. Then if you make assortment decision changes—maybe you take out your worst-performing deodorant, which might be that deodorant—what you’ve just done is taken that guest [15] completely out of your store, because they are deeply committed to this one particular brand of deodorant, and if Target doesn’t have it, they don’t come to Target. And so these items might be low sellers, but they’re actually trip drivers for our guests.

What will be some of those key items in Canada, based on your research?
I would say food’s going to be a very passionate topic for our consumers here. One of the things that we found is that the Canadian palate is different. Things are sweeter in Canada. Ice cream is sweeter, ketchup [16] is sweeter. So you’ll have a Hershey’s chocolate bar that looks like the exact same Hershey’s chocolate bar you bought in Buffalo versus what you bought in Toronto, and they will taste different.

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Follow on Twitter: @MarinaStrauss

 
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