As Zellers stores continue to slap "everything must go signs" upon its remaining storefronts and doomed employees work out their final days with blank stares gracing their faces, the reality that Target is coming couldn't be any more in the forefront.
Oh, right, and the pissed off union leaders and protestors that gathered outside of Target Canada's Mississauga headquarters on Wednesday also helped brighten the spotlight that's being shined in the direction of the Minneapolis-based retailer.
Here's what's clear: in January 2011, Target Corp. purchased select Zellers' leaseholds from Hudson's Bay Co. for a cool $1.825 billion. Target then sold off some of the leaseholds to Walmart Canada. Now, Zellers is on the absolute verge of extinction, as these two monster U.S.-based retailers get ready to build atop of its soon-to-be graveyards.
As this situation starts to shakeout, the ugliness is beginning to get tremendously pronounced. Certain unions (including the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL)), along with Zellers employees are at the throat of Target as an estimated 27,300 jobs are about to be lost as a result of the leasehold sale. Of that number, 10,000 jobs could be cut from Zellers locations purchased by Target, if the latter doesn't change its stance.
What is its stance, you ask?
Well, it's pretty clear: "this is a real estate transaction only. We did not take the employees with us," stated Michelle Letner, a human resources manager for Target during the heat of the protest. Needless to say, that only stoked the fire, as OFL President Sid Ryan retorted: "That's another way of saying we're firing 10,000 people. It's very clever but it doesn't wash."
For Target, this is the opposition that it had to expect when it packed up its big, red bulls-eyed trucks and chose to enter the great white north. It had to know that some Canadians would be uneasy (to put it mildly), about another major U.S. retail franchise entering their turf and creating another casualty - totally understandable.
However, we Canadians are generally a pretty peaceful bunch - apart from NHL enforcers, failed porn stars that chop up bodies, and those that believe that they need to re-enact the plot lines expressed in gangsta rap. As a whole, though, we would've gladly been open to a ‘targeted' olive branch - one that maybe included the opportunity for soon-to-be curbed Zellers employees to have a big-time competitive advantage when it came to seeking employment within a Target location. Or, at the very least, not someone coming out and saying that Target essentially doesn't give a crap about the people's livelihoods, and strictly made a real estate deal.
Instead, Target chose (at least in the words of Letner), to be stupid, inconsiderate and the opposite of thoughtful right out of the gate. As someone following this Target story for some time, I am very intrigued that such words could be spoken from one of its reps. You'd have to think by now that they've all been thoroughly coached on what they can, and most importantly, can't say in public about the situation. Whether this is Target Canada's official stance or not, such a statement is now forever out there for everyone to read, think about, and possibly shake a fist at.
Additionally, Target has been trying its hardest the last bunch of months to portray itself as a very friendly, kind-to-Canadians organization. They've hosted at least one big tent sale that I can think of, and have a cross-country promo event scheduled this weekend. How can the retailer consciously shake the hands and kiss the babies of some Canadians, as it prepares to toss thousands of others into a long EI line and near certain financial uncertainty?
I don't get it.
When I first heard that Target was coming to Canada, I was moderately excited - I certainly didn't hate the idea. However, the (hopefully) flippant comment by Letner is beginning to change my perspective. No, I didn't expect Target to do every ousted Zellers employee a solid and bring them back into the fold, but I did at least expect it to not be more tactful if it chose to abandon the workers in question. Unfortunately, Letner has left her organization looking too cold and heartless ahead of its Canadian launch.
Some like to call Target Tar-jay, but I'm thinking that Tar-lame has a better ring to it.
Return to Complete Blog Listings