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Target in Quebec: "vive la différence"

Retailer looks to get regional food nuances right in la belle province

Target will attempt to recognize the different food needs of Quebec consumers when it opens its stores in the province this fall.

“There will be some nuances” when it comes to Target’s food offerings in Quebec compared with other provinces, said Sébastien Bouchard, manager of public relations for Target in Quebec.

It’s all based on Target research that Quebecers do much less one-stop shopping than other Canadians. “Quebec consumers traditionally visit stores more often and buy smaller quantities each time, versus other markets where consumers buy more and shop less,” Bouchard said.

And because Quebecers tend to have smaller household sizes on average, with higher percentages of renters and single-parents, “they don’t need to buy four litres of milk when they don’t drink that much milk each week.”

Target’s entry into Quebec later this year represents the Minnesota-based company’s first major foray into an area in which English is not the principal language.

Bouchard said Target is working hard to understand the Quebec market and has had a team in place since 2011 to deliver made–to-measure offerings in the province, “rather than a one-size fits all approach in which people won’t find what they’re looking for.”

The food category is one in which there are different tastes in regions of the country, unlike such categories as electronics, where demand is almost exactly the same, he said. In Quebec, for example, those different tastes translate into a greater openness for international foodstuffs. “People appreciate certain products that people don’t look for in other markets.”

While there will be some different products, shelf space devoted to food will be the same in Quebec as in the rest of the country. “The store experience for somebody going from one province to another will be very similar,” with the goal of resembling the U.S. store experience as closely as possible.

Sobeys is supplying Target’s Canadian food and grocery requirements for frozen, dairy and dry grocery products, including both national brands and Target’s private-label brands. “We’re working with Sobeys to ensure the food assortment matches local needs,” Bouchard said.

Bouchard notes adjustments in Target offerings will not just be common in Quebec and will take into account such factors as climate differences between, for example, Northern Ontario and Vancouver.

Target plans to open 25 stores in Quebec, 14 of which will be in the Montreal area. That’s appropriate, given that Target responds better to urban consumers, Bouchard said.

Company research has found that Target brand awareness is only 70 per cent in Quebec and 80 per cent in the Montreal area, compared with 90 per cent in the rest of Canada. The difference can be attributed to greater exposure to American media in English Canada than in Quebec, Bouchard said.

To help increase its brand awareness, Target has taken such preliminary steps as hiring Quebec personality Mitsou Gelinas as a fashion ambassador and replacing “Hi Neighbour” with “Salut Québec” in some ads.

Meanwhile, competitors aren’t standing still in advance of Target’s opening in Quebec. Walmart, for example, has increased its food offerings in the province, opened several Supercentres and given greater prominence to food specials in its weekly circulars.

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