The Pine Centre Mall parking lot was still full on Boxing Day, even though one of its anchor locations is a construction zone.
Next year's Boxing Day will be a whole different story at Pine Centre, however, since Target will be open for business.
As the page 4 story in Thursday paper explained, retailers across Canada and in Prince George are getting ready for Target's arrival in the spring and what it will do the retail marketplace.
The biggest winner when a major new player opens its doors in the community is the Prince George and area consumer. With a multi-million upgrade of the former Zellers location, Target will show, not tell, area shoppers who may be unfamiliar with the U.S. retail giant why they've become such a force south of the border.
There's price, of course, but Target plays all of the cards in the deck, stressing design, style, strong customer service, data collection and brand loyalty.
In the United States, Target took the Wal-Mart model and made it hip. Wal-Mart built itself on price, incredible data collection and synchronized product flow, embracing technology to track items from the supplier to the warehouse to the store shelf to the buggy to the checkout. Wal-Mart doesn't just force its suppliers to be cheap, it demands speed and flexibility. Forget quarterly or monthly sales returns, Wal-Mart set the tone with daily and hourly real-time sales analysis and then shared the results with its suppliers, on the condition those suppliers use that data to be more responsive and - of course - cheaper.
That's how a family-owned store based out of Bentonville, Arkansas, became one of the largest companies and employers in the world. Wal-Mart did the business well but style wasn't included, which left room for a competitor.
Target can be summed up simply - it's Wal-Mart with style, flare and pizzazz. No one uses those words to describe Wal-Mart but Target realized there was money to be made by taking the Wal-Mart business model and making it fun. Some folks pronounce the store tar-JHAY, giving it a French pronunciation to underscore its coolness.
Wal-Mart's colour is navy blue, safe and traditional. Target is bright red, bold and in-your-face.
The inside of even the newest Wal-Mart outlet looks pretty much the same as department stores have looked for the last 50 years, except for the big black-and-white signs everywhere displaying prices. The focus is on price, not merchandise.
Target stores are brighter, from the lighting, to the merchandise, to the buggies, right down to the floor and even the staff standing on that floor. There is a youthfulness and a vitality stressed inside every Target store.
Wal-Mart wants its shoppers to feel safe and secure in its stores. Target wants its shoppers to be buzzing with excitement.
Canadian retailers have noticed. Check out the Joe Fresh fashion line at Superstore here in Prince George for a preview. Loblaw's created Joe Fresh to be Joe (cheap) and Fresh (style). The Joe Fresh section looks far more like Target than Wal-Mart.
The Sears Canada president came through Prince George early this month, talking about the "battle" ahead and stressing that Sears is up for the fight.
The Bay location in Prince George has a young new manager and is planning its own major renovation and upgrade of its Parkwood location in 2013.
It's going to be a great year to be a shopper in Prince George.