Few subjects in Report on Business stir emotion quite like retailing.
Readers are familiar with stores – especially biggies such as "Wally World" and "Crappy Tire." They spend their hard-earned money there, and feel that they should have a forum to vent their frustrations with products or service. They also get excited about stores they love. When Target arrived in Canada last March, for instance, it sparked major media hype as well as a frenzy of shopper demand.
But this week, The Globe and Mail revealed a poll by Forum Research showing that the retailer has not lived up to expectations. It scored lowest in customer satisfaction among a list of major rivals. And our readers – hundreds of them – expressed similar disappointment to the shoppers who had been surveyed.
Some had strong views about the chain even if they had never been in a Target. But many felt let down by their own shopping experiences – by bare shelves, or by prices sometimes higher than in the United States.
Some readers even commented about an unpleasant scent in the store they had visited. "Fix that funky smell!" one reader declared in capital letters. Another called the odour "brutal to the point of being nauseating."
Readers were also unsympathic to any difficulties that a brand-new business might encounter. While the story suggested that Target may be able to iron out wrinkles in its operations, one reader wrote: "Huh?? Here is some free advice about how to 'iron out the wrinkles.' Put the same selection and price in Canadian stores. Not very complicated at all."
Another reader offered a bottom line: "Their competitors offer far more for far less. I won't be going back to Target any time soon."
Still, the chain has many admirers. "First of all I am tired of the Target bashing in Canada," one said. "I love my Bullseye and, yes, I know there are growing pains. It's a great store to shop at."
Another group of readers defended the price points at Target, saying consumers should have anticipated disparities between Canada and the United States.
The split in reader response to Target's customer-satisfaction rating underlines the difficulties that even the savviest U.S. retailers can have in meeting the needs of Canadian consumers. Two days after The Globe published its piece on consumer feedback in Canada, Target disclosed softer-than-expected quarterly financial results.
Target is still learning the ropes here, and tweaking its strategies. But many of our readers are getting impatient.
Marina Strauss is The Globe's retail reporter.