There may be fewer Friendly Manitoba licence plates in Grand Forks and Fargo parking lots starting today.
That's because one of the longtime draws for Winnipeggers to make a run for the border has finally arrived here.
Target Canada will have a soft opening in a pair of stores in Winnipeg -- at Kildonan Place Shopping Centre and Southdale Centre -- as well as a third at Shoppers Mall in Brandon. All three will open their doors at 8 a.m.
Derek Jenkins, senior vice-president of external relations at Target Canada, said he's confident the Minneapolis-based retailer's arrival will be a bull's-eye with consumers. He said once you've been inside the store, you'll quickly realize it is not "Target Light."
"We want to reassure everyone that we really did our homework and listened to people. We're bringing some of the uniqueness of Canada (to the stores), but you're not losing the Target experience that you're used to," he said.
Target will open 22 stores across Western Canada today plus another two next week, bringing its Canadian total in the last two months to 48. It plans to cut the ribbon on 86 more before the year is out and long-term plans call for a total of more than 200 in the next decade.
Another store at Grant Park Shopping Centre is scheduled to open this fall or winter. Target is expected to build a stand-alone store on the former stadium site near Polo Park mall.
This is the biggest retail invasion Canada has seen since Walmart stormed the 49th parallel in 1994 with the acquisition of 122 Woolco stores.
Inside the Kildonan Place store, Target employees were putting the finishing touches on shelves and displays early Monday. Outside, curious shoppers walked up to the doors in the hopes Monday was the opening day.
Jenkins acknowledged the criticism of the company during its initial rollout in Ontario two months ago because prices weren't as low as consumers expected from their experiences at U.S. locations. He said Target will undertake regular shops at competitors around Winnipeg and will be very price competitive in the local market. He stopped short, however, of saying prices will be on par with Target stores in Grand Forks and Fargo.
"Because (those stores are more than two hours away), we'll stay with trying to make sure we're competitive in the marketplace that's right here (in Winnipeg). We want to make sure in any marketplace that we have (some) of the lowest prices and that we offer a great experience," he said.
Target Canada has spent about $10 million in renovations to each store, which used to be under the Zellers banner. The average footprint is 114,000 square feet, of which 67,000 will be for the sales floor.
In 2011, Target bought the rights to 189 Zellers' leaseholds from its parent company, Hudson Bay Co., for $1.83 billion. After reviewing the sites, it eventually decided to keep 124 of the stores from coast to coast, sell some to Walmart and return the rest to the landlords.
"The way this deal worked out, it was advantageous for us to get scale and be able to have enough stores across the country to make it work for us," Jenkins said.
He laughed when told Winnipeggers typically go bananas for new store arrivals -- hundreds of people stood outside for hours in frigid temperatures before IKEA opened its doors last November -- but if people are lined up prior to 8 a.m. there are contingency plans to make sure they all get into the store safely and can go through the checkout lines as quickly and efficiently as possible, he said.