May 20, 2014 11:51 am

Target’s biggest headache in Canada? Bare shelves (Gallery)

ABOVE: Target has fired the president of its troubled Canadian operations, Tony Fisher, and is replacing him with a 15-year U.S. company veteran.

Fourteen months after Target Corp opened its first stores in Canada, it has fired its head of operations here, Tony Fisher, and will replace him with a 15-year U.S. company veteran.

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The reasons have been well documented in recent months – close to a billion dollars in operating losses; disappointment among customers over prices they felt were unjustifiably higher than those offered at U.S. stores; a stiff fight from domestic retailers who have girded for the challenge.

READ MORE:  Cool reception greets U.S. retailers in Canada 

But the most visible sign of Target’s woes in Canada? Bare store shelves.

Here’s a what some locations looked like from pictures taken within the last week (courtesy, source).

Brian Sozzi, who runs the U.S. research firm that snapped the photos, said by phone they were taken at a handful of Canadian Target locations  in the past five days.

“I think they rushed into the market and didn’t have the structure of the business in place,” Sozzi said.  “It shows up in those pictures, you have consistent out of stock products.”

‘Untested’ distribution

Target has opened 127 Canadian stores since March 2013, a daunting feat even for the U.S. retail giant, experts say.

The task of putting in place a speedy and efficient delivery system to get products to stores in a timely way has evidently proven to be a far bigger challenge than the Minneapolis-based retailer had planned for.

“By opening 124 stores in a foreign country over a seven-month period with dedicated, untested distribution also developed almost simultaneously to support the stores, Target was attempting to execute something it had not done before, even in the US,” analysts at ratings agency Moody’s said last week.

Where Target has opened stores by province over the past year. (Moody’s)

Target originally predicted it could begin making a profit in Canada as early as the holidays last December, something Moody’s said was ultimately “unrealistic.”

“We believe that the expectations for early success were probably misplaced,” analyst Charles O’Shea said.

To help achieve its profitability goal, Target Canada has cut staffing levels and hours of store associates at locations weeks after their initial opening.

READ MORE: As Target plans new stores, hours slashed at others

WATCH: Target Canada a year after launch — hit or miss with shoppers? 

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