I have always had a fascination with Canada. I was, as a child, undoubtedly the only 12 year old in Virginia who followed Canadian football and politics. In adulthood, there were two outcomes from this fascination:
I wore, for a short time, a Winnipeg Blue Bombers hat. It was, ironically, stolen from me on “HatNight” at Madison Square Garden. The lesson from this being that you should never take off your Blue Bombers hat at a Rangers game. In fact, you should probably never take off any kind of hat.
I have, with some success, tried over the course of my career, to make inroads into the Canadian toy market.
Canada, for those Americans who try, is not a particularly easy place to find success. That was why a New York Times article entitled “American Retailers Face Challenges in Expanding to Canada’ caught my eye. The authors, Ian Austen and Stephanie Clifford, summed it up this way: “American retailers extending their reach northward seems like the most obvious of moves. But until recently, the Canadian market was hard to crack for many companies. The Canadian dollar was weak, costs were higher, and with limited real estate development, it was difficult to find space.”
That seems to be changing, however, as the Canadian economy continues to be comparatively robust and their dollar is strong. “Canada’s allure is basic: Sales per square foot at Canadian malls were almost 50 percent higher in 2011 than sales per square foot at American malls, according to Colliers International Consulting, a real estate research firm.”
As a result, a number of American companies are making the move north, Target and Nordstrom to
· Canadians consumers are very aware of the price of things in the US. That is why J. Crew had to back off of higher prices in Canada after getting a slew of complaints from Canadian shoppers.”
· Canadians, not surprisingly, have different tastes than Americans. According to the article, Wal-Mart had to change its product selection to the extent that it now only carries 20% of the SKU's it markets in the US (snowsuits sell well in July).
· There are also those laws requiring French and English as well as tougher labor laws.
· And let’s not forget that there are some great, home-grown retailers up north: Canadian Tire and Hudson’s Bay to name two.
Are you selling in Canada? Let us know what your experience has been.
Also, Canadian readers, how do you feel about American companies coming north?