What Target’s Canadian Closures Really Mean

So it's been a few days and we've had time to digest it: Target Canada is dead.

And when I say "dead" that's not an understatement. According to a report from the Toronto Star, the stores will begin liquidation mode in two to three weeks (at least that's what they're expecting), leaving little to no time for consumers to process the news, let alone store employees.

"It's looking like it's going to be a significant struggle for these workers and their communities although, over time, they will be reasbored," said Angella MacEwan, senior economist at the Canadian Labour Congress. "They will be able to find work eventually."

Eventually. Well isn't that special. (Especially since "eventually" is, as experts say, looking closer to about six months — which is terrifying for anyone who's living paycheque to paycheque.) MacEwan went onto say that because January and February aren't great for job-finding as is, the flood of people looking for work in the wake of Target's closure will make the hunt that much more difficult. And while employees have been offered a short severence following their almost immediate termination (considering that's how fast Target's apparently pulling out), none of this is comforting. Six months isn't comforting. It's terrifying and alarming — especially since Mexx and Jacob have also announced their closures, which makes our marketplace look pretty bleak.

Granted, Target's failure is a relatively independent one — where Mexx and Jacob have been on the downward slope for some time, Target's slope was more like a sudden collapse. As Fortune outlined, empty shelves, aggressive Wal-Mart pricing, and location (evidently, ex-Zellers don't make for wonderful Targets) were just a few of the factors that contributed to what we can best describe as a full-on disaster, as opposed to the closures of mall stores which signal another problem. (The demise of malls, which is another discussion for another day.)

And these have been the talking points for the last couple of days: Target screwed up, they made a billion-dollar mistake, how are the rest of us going to get our limited-release designer crossovers, and so on. But what I don't think we're focusing on is the very real crisis these closures have posed for thousands of people. Because of Target's arrogance and/or mismanagement, mortgage payments won't be made. Food won't be bought. Insurance will be lacking and or gone completely. Ex-Target employees will now consume 100% of their paycheques just trying to live. (Let alone save for retirement or buy anything that isn't immediately necessary.) These problems are very real and the biggest reason why we should care about Target closing beyond our own "Well where are we going to buy our snacks now?!" I've been a person who's lived paycheque to paycheque (until very, very recently). And I had only myself to look out for, and family to head back to when I couldn't hack it anymore. But my experience was the exception. What do you say to a mom with three kids?

The thing is, there's nothing you can really say. "I'm sorry"? Of course we're sorry. We're very sorry. But this isn't one of those pieces (or situations) where we can come up with a bright, shiny solution and tell big corporpations to try harder. They probably did try. And then they failed. And now a lot of people are suffering because of those failures. So what can we do? And I mean, I'm really asking: what can we do? I'm not an economist (and for that we should all be grateful). I'm not a financial or business expert. How did we get here? As someone who's from a town with a closing Target and who's seen more than enough businesses dwindle and die (leaving behind employees who tried their best and are now completely screwed), how do we avoid it happening again and again? The middle class is dwindling and we're watching it happen and, like so many huge, towering, terrible things, it feels like there's nothing we can do.

Educate ourselves? Read? Dispell myths? We can do those things, sure. While we're processing and using Target Canada as an example of what can happen when mistakes lead to the decimation of the working class' economy, we can for sure also focus less on how shitty it is there aren't any "going out of business sales" and more on, "How the fuck did this happen and what's to say it's not going to happen somewhere else?" In the words of Peggy Olson, if you don't like what they're saying, change the conversation. The conversation has been about why Target failed and how we, the consumers, lose out on it. Let's start with changing the conversation about how we've just seen 17 600 jobs disappear and how, in our current system, we're all technically one corporate move away from the being in the next batch.

Tags: Anne T. Donahue, Target Canada

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