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Shoppers emerge from a Target store in BostonCHITOSE SUZUKI

Target Corp. shares haven't budged one inch since the company announced last week that it would be opening as many as 220 locations in Canada, starting in 2013.

Investors, it seems, either had never heard of this place called Canada or just couldn't see much upside, given that Target already has more than 1,700 stores in the United States.

There was also the matter of lingering disappointment over Target's same-store sales in December. Last month, sales at Target stores open for at least one year rose just 0.9 per cent, which was well below the average among U.S. retailers. Target shares were punished in early January, when the data were released.

However, Neil Currie, an analyst at UBS, believes that Canada is an important element in the company's long-term growth strategy, which is partly why he's sticking to his "buy" recommendation on the stock.

"The company expects the Canadian locations to generate above-average sales per square foot and margin, given a less saturated market," he said in a note. "The nature of the Canada deal should allow Target to realize up to $6-billion (U.S.) in sales within five years."

I must confess to being a little puzzled by such comments, though. Canada as a "less saturated" market implies that Canadians are standing around with money in their hands, but have nowhere to spend it - a condition I haven't seen.

That said, there is room for Target to muscle in on the turf of other retailers. National Bank Financial pointed out last week that apparel retailers - Sears Canada Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Loblaw Cos. Ltd.'s Joe Fresh outlets, Reitmans (Canada) Ltd. and Gap Inc.'s Old Navy chain - might feel particularly threatened.