The cause of mass retailer extinction

Photo illistration by Joel McCarthy

Why Target, Sony, and other retailers may be missing the market

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. January 27, 2015

Remember Zellers? I do, and that is why Target failed. The same everyday brands presented in the same everyday fashion with prices as high as any other major retailer. Target’s failure is no surprise to me.

I wanted to shop there, I tried to shop there, and on occasion, I have spent some hard-earned money there; nevertheless, I often found myself at Wal-Mart, Superstore, and Costco instead. There is absolutely no reason to choose Target over their competitors, except perhaps that it was closer to home. In my case, it was not.

Although Target’s demise is clear, the retail closure trend is a little scary. I hate to see Sony stores go, but I can’t remember the last time I went into one. Heck, I’ve been into more Disney stores than Sony. Another retailer that has disappointed me is the flagship Chapters on Robson. I’m going to miss walking through the four-storey space, killing time before an appointment, and never actually buying anything. I’ll miss that very much.

It’s obvious why those stores are failing, and if your behaviour is anything like mine, you would not be surprised either. The thing is, people still want to shop and browse, they just might not commit to a purchase or wait in line at the checkout anymore. Unless you have a unique product or a loyal customer base, you are going to have trouble surviving in our tough economy. New and old retailers need to understand the game: if you are going to take up space, you’d better have value.

Ask yourself this, what makes you go out to stores? Why are you choosing to buy something in person, instead of ordering it online? Why are you choosing that store instead of the others? The stores that are dying out are a part of natural selection. The power goes to the consumers. We’re at a crossroad and we get to determine which companies succeed and which fail.

As for brands, they can no longer act so big and arrogant. Any giant can crumble now. In a matter of weeks, a retail giant like Target collapsed. Whatever company that is taking over that retail space had better have a plan.

Canadian economics is a whole other ballpark and companies entering from the States must recognize the different culture. The next big brand to set foot in Vancouver is Nordstrom. I can’t wait to wander around their aisles, touch their fabric, acknowledge some of their employees, and then leave quietly out a random exit. Yes, I wish them luck—they’ll need it.

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