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How Target's Entering Canada: Politely, and Bearing Gifts

Posted by Barry Silverstein on November 21, 2012 11:13 AM

What's the best way for a well-known retailer to introduce its brand to a new country? Come bearing gifts. That, apparently, is Target's strategy. In advance of its spring 2013 launch in Canada, the retail chain is laying the groundwork with PR-positive initiatives, including a push to support Canadian charities, sustainable stores, and a focus on Canadian fashion designers.

Target has pledged to give $1 million to six local Canadian charities in food, active play, education, and the arts. Visitors to Target's Canadian Facebook page through December 9 can select any of the six charities and Target will make a $100 donation and add the donor's photo to its "Gallery of Giving." Facebook visitors can also specify the province where they would like the money to go. The "Give with Target" campaign just launched on November 20 and has already raised over $250,000.

Will using corporate citizenship as a calling card convince Canadians to forgo Walmart and homegrown faves such as The Bay, Sears (which just refreshed its branding ahead of Target's arrival) and Canadian Tire?

Derek Jenkins, SVP of external relations at Target Canada, told Canada's The Record, "It's just one of the ways we will try and engage our future guests. Being a good neighbor doesn't mean you just come in and do business. ...It just shows our commitment to making sure we're involved in the community, but also the other we get is we get to find out what's really important to our Canadian guests." Target says it will donate five percent of its Canadian profits to local communities.

At the same time, the second largest US retailer announced that it is "striving for LEED certification" for its 124 Canadian stores. The locations, formerly owned by Zellers, a Canadian retailer, will all be retrofitted at a cost of more than $10 million.

Target is among the first organizations in Canada to be part of the LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Volume Program, which streamlines the certification process for multiple buildings of a similar type. "We take our role as good corporate citizen very seriously," stated Target Canada president Tony Fisher, "and we're proud that Target is making a firm commitment to sustainability in Canada." Rick Fedrizzi, chair of the U.S. Green Building Council, which oversees the LEED Volume Program, added, "By seeking to transform its portfolio to high-performing, LEED-certified sustainable buildings, Target is setting an important, positive example for the retail industry."

Finally, Target is partnering with the Toronto Fashion Incubator (TFI) in the annual TFI New Labels Design Competition for up and coming Canadian fashion designers. The winner of the competition will receive a $25,000 cash award from TFI supporter Suzanne Rogers, as well as the opportunity to create an exclusive collection to be sold in Target stores across Canada in 2014. "We are always looking for ways to elevate the competition and we are thrilled to have Target on board to support New Labels this year," said Susan Langdon, executive director of TFI. "With a guaranteed in-store collection on the line, the stakes are even higher for our young designers. Target is known for their exclusive designer partnerships, and we are so pleased to be able to give one of our own such an amazing opportunity."

Charity, sustainability, and supporting local designers. Seems as if Target has learned a thing or two or three about the polite way to win over Canadians, some of whom may be smarting at the closure of the Zellers chain whose stores Target is now making over.

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