Target's entry to impact Sears, Canadian Tire, Wal Mart, reveals report

Sunny Freeman
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The Canadian Press

Over time, the greatest risk to established retailers is the permanent change in customer traffic patterns that Target could induce, says Barclays Capital.

Target will begin opening the first of between 125 and 135 stores in March and April at locations once owned by Canadian retailer Zellers.

[TORONTO, ON] — Target's arrival in Canada will take a bite out of the sales of several key rivals, according to a new report, though many of those named have said they're not fazed by new competitive pressure from the American retail giant.

In a report assessing the impact of Target's arrival next year, Barclays Capital said Monday that Wal-Mart, Sears Canada (TSX:SCC), Old Navy, Loblaw's Joe Fresh brand (TSX:L) and Canadian Tire (TSX:CTC.A) are the retailers most at risk.

Target is preparing to move into Canada, its first expansion outside the U.S. It will begin opening the first of between 125 and 135 stores in March and April at locations once owned by Canadian retailer Zellers.

"Target's arrival marks the addition of another best-in-class global operator entering the Canadian market. We expect Target to focus on what they are most known for when they arrive: apparel and house goods," the report said.

"Over time, the greatest risk to established retailers is the permanent change in customer traffic patterns that Target could induce," it said.

However, the investment firm also said other retailers that don't overlap in their offerings — like dollar stores and higher-end retail stores — may benefit from the increased traffic generated by the new Target stores.

Sears Canada (TSX:SCC) is the most at risk of the general retailers, with significant overlap in its offerings and 37 per cent of its locations less than a kilometre away from a Target location, the report said.

"Sears' housewares and value priced, mostly private label, apparel offering (#2 in Canada behind Wal-Mart) makes Sears Canada one of the most at risk retailers. Sears Canada's management believes 70 per cent of their categories overlap with Target's offering," it added.

Sears Canada has already been struggling to compete and is revamping many of its locations and slashing prices to contend with lagging sales. The retailer has announced the closure of four prime store locations in three cities — Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa.

The arrival will also eat into Wal-Mart's business, the report said, noting that Target's chief rival "may implement several 'mitigation and offset' strategies to minimize Target's net impact on their business."

Wal-Mat Canada (NYSE:WMT), a subsidiary of the world's biggest retailer, has said it is confident it's prepared for Target's arrival. As part of the plan, it will lower the prices of more items to about $1 as it also answers to the expansion by Canadian dollar store operator Dollarama Inc. (TSX:DOL).

The retailer has never competed against Target Corp. (NYSE:TGT) outside its home base in the United States, which means Canadians could react to the new entrant in ways Wal-Mart hasn't anticipated.

Canadian Tire is expected to take a hit, but Barclays analyst Jim Durran notes that when Wal-Mart first launched in Canada, Canadian Tire was able to recover by the following year.

"There is no doubt that Canadian Tire will suffer some sales erosion to Target, particularly in Target's perceived 'go to' categories such as housewares, apparel and seasonal merchandise," the report said.

However Barclays noted that Canadian Tire's most loyal customers generate a majority of its sales and just 30 per cent of the Canadian retailer's stores will be within five kilometres of a Target.

Canadian Tire Corp. (TSX:CTC) is working aggressively to carve out a bigger share of the market before Target arrives. It has unveiled a new automotive-centric store format in a strategy aimed at improving customer experience among those shopping for products that helped make the company a household name.

Meanwhile, the report calls discount retailer Dollarama Inc. (TSX:DOL) a special case among retailers as they offer something different from Target.

Barclays said it believes Dollarama will "benefit when a Target opens nearby".

Dollarama Inc. is expanding faster than initially planned this year by increasing the number of new store openings to take advantage of a mall construction boom in Canada.

Chief executive Larry Rossy has said the chain could be helped by the arrival.

"I'm looking forward to it. I think that they're going to bring traffic where we're situated close to the Target stores," he has said.

Rossy added he doesn't believe the U.S. chain, which he said was a notch higher than Wal-Mart, will "trade down" by selling low-price products that fill Dollarama's shelves.

And although 40 per cent of The Bay stores are within that range, its merchandise — the retailer has been refocusing on higher-end offerings — doesn't overlap as much.

Clothing retailer Old Navy, however, will have 42 per cent of its stores within one kilometre of a Target location and also compete in an area of strength for the chain.

Homesense, Winners and Reitmans (TSX:RET.A) also have significant location exposure.

However, the CEO of Reitmans has said he is not concerned, saying Target will generate traffic that will filter into its stores.

Barclays said it doesn't expect Target to have much impact on the already highly competitive grocery sector in Canada — at least at first — because it does not appear the chain plans to focus on food offerings.

However, Loblaw Companies Ltd. (TSX:L) will see the most impact among supermarket chains as its Joe Fresh clothing line will compete with Target in the discount chic clothing space.

Meanwhile, the Sobeys grocery chain owned by Empire Co. Ltd. (TSX:EMP.A) could benefit after it signed a deal to offer some food in its Canadian stores.

Organizations: Canadian Tire, TSX, Wal Mart Barclays Capital Sears Canada Old Navy SCC Loblaw Companies Ltd. NYSE Dollarama Wal-Mat Canada Reitmans Sobeys Empire Co. Ltd.

Geographic location: Canada, United States, TORONTO Vancouver Calgary Ottawa

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