Newspaper article International New York Times

Target Fires Chief of Canadian Unit ; Missteps in Expansion Included Shortages and Complaints of High Prices

Newspaper article International New York Times

Target Fires Chief of Canadian Unit ; Missteps in Expansion Included Shortages and Complaints of High Prices

Article excerpt

The retailer's bungled expansion into Canada, its first venture outside the United States, has probably caused the retailer extensive damage.

In a year of public setbacks and damaging missteps, Target has made another move to try to right itself by firing the president of its struggling Canadian division.

Just two weeks after the company's chief executive, Gregg W. Steinhafel, resigned, the company said Tuesday that Tony Fisher, the president of Target Canada, would be replaced by Mark Schindele, senior vice president for merchandising operations.

On Wednesday, Target reported a 16 percent drop in first-quarter earnings, in part because of its troubles in Canada but also because of the enormous security breach last year.

While the security breach, which exposed customer data, may have attracted far more attention, Target's bungled expansion into Canada, its first venture outside the United States, has also caused the retailer -- and its high-ranking executives -- extensive damage.

Target opened more than 100 stores in a matter of months last year, a move some analysts questioned, and inventory problems made it difficult to keep merchandise on all those shelves. Customers complained that prices were too high, and some of the exclusive brands sold in America were not available to its northern neighbors. The company lost $941 million in Canada last year.

Over the past few months, Target has made changes in its Canadian stores. Yellow signs marking permanent price reductions and promoting sales have become larger and more numerous. Aisles with more empty space than merchandise are now less common. Nonetheless, a recent visit to an Ottawa store revealed that some of the men's underwear racks were empty.

On Tuesday, in the Target at the Billings Bridge Shopping Centre in Ottawa, a woman, pushing a toddler in a stroller, puzzled over what initially appeared to be a Mason jar painted blue. It was part of a unique-to-Canada product line, Beaver Canoe, which is a brand owned by Roots, the Canadian leather goods and sportswear maker.

"Oh, it's a candle," she said to another shopper after peering under the lid. …

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