WINNIPEG – There are five big retail holes to fill in the Manitoba shopping scene after Target announced it will close all 133 stores in Canada, putting 17,500 people out of work across the country.
“What happens to those spaces? Those are some significant retail,” said Chuck Davidson, president and CEO of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce. “Filling a retail space of that size is not something that a lot of retailers can come in and simply take over that space, so that’s going to be a huge challenge.”
There are four Targets in Winnipeg and one in Brandon. Manitoba’s biggest Target, a standalone store built specifically for the chain near Polo Park mall, opened just three months ago. Target is also the anchor tenant at the Grant Park, Kildonan Place and Southdale malls. The Brandon Target is the anchor tenant for that city’s Shoppers Mall.
“Some that might be attached to specifically a mall, there might be a chance to redevelop them,” Davidson said. “The one at Polo Park, which is a standalone built specifically for Target, how you’re going to fill that space – I think that’s going to be a real challenge, and that’s a space that could sit vacant for a number of years.”
READ MORE: Target pulls plug on Canadian stores
“I don’t know what could fill the space,” said Fang Wan, a marketing professor at the Asper School of Business.
Local retailers likely don’t have the money to invest in the large site and international retailers are scared, Wan said.
“They are watching what happened to Target.”
Grant Park and Kildonan Place should look at what Polo Park did with the former Zellers site, which was converted into smaller stores to bring in different clientele, she said.
READ MORE: Here’s why Target failed in Canada
A spokesman for Shindico, the company developing the former stadium lands at Polo Park that include the Target building, admitted the U.S. store’s exit will be difficult.
“This is a bump in the road,” said Bob Downs. “It is another task to be dealt with.”
Target opened on the footprint of the old Canad Inns Stadium. Downs said he expects a new occupant to fill the building and there are interested companies, although he wouldn’t name them.
“Polo Park is the strongest retail node in the city,” he said.
Peter Havens, Kildonan Place mall’s general manager, said he found about the closure from the media.
“We had no pre-warning.”
It’s too early to speculate on what business could fill the vacancy, he said.
James Scott, a shopper at the Grant Park Target, said staff seemed to be struggling with the news.
“The employees are gloomy and disappointed. One guy said he’s scared,” Scott said.
He’ll miss the store.
“I like it. It was clean,” he said. “They had good sales.”
READ MORE: Target opens Manitoba locations
Davidson was shocked by the closures so soon after the company launched in Canada.
The company obviously made major mistakes when launching the chain, coming into Canada too big and too fast and misjudging the market, he said – but with so much invested, pulling out completely is a drastic step.
“They’re going to be taking a huge loss to get out rather than trying to recoup,” he said. “I’m sure there are (stores) in the chain that are profitable. … Why wouldn’t you simply continue to build upon those?”
Retail in Canada has been strong for a decade, Davidson said.
“Their approach was obviously not one that resonated with Canadians,” he said.
“The chance of Target coming back to Canada now? Probably slim and none.”
© 2015 Shaw Media