2013 was a big year for shopping news. I didn’t have a chance to write about these headlines as they occurred, so here is my year in review in case you missed anything!
March 5 – Target opened its first stores in Canada, using old Zellers locations. By year-end, Target executives discovered that they don’t understand Canadian consumers and didn’t hit their expected “targets”. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).
March 19 – Lululemon “Luon” pants were pulled from store shelves because they were sheer to the point of being see-through. These pants were back in the headlines by November. When addressing quality issues, Lululemon founder Chip Wilson blamed sizing and women’s thighs rubbing together as causes of the problems. Needless to say, he managed to offend just about everyone with his remarks. By December, he announced that he will be stepping down as Chairman of the company in 2014.
April 24 – A garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed and killed over 1,100 workers. This exposed unsafe working conditions and consumers discovered how retailers such as Walmart, H & M and Joe Fresh could offer clothing at such low prices, as bargain hunters learned that they were among the brands that had their clothing lines produced there. Many companies, including Loblaw (Joe Fresh), signed a pact to improve fire and building safety in Bangladesh. They also pledged to provide long-term financial compensation to the victims and their families. The Bangladesh factory owners have since been charged with homicide.
July 15 – Loblaw held a press conference to announce that they would buy Shoppers Drug Mart for $12.4 billion. The executive chairman of Loblaw, Galen Weston, claimed that this merger would not reduce competition. Shoppers Drug Mart will keep its name but add President’s Choice products to its shelves, while Loblaw stores will carry Life brand products. The two companies’ loyalty programs will be integrated. Reading between the lines, this means that if you subscribe to both programs, Loblaw will now have a pretty good picture of your buying habits.
August 1 – The Toronto Premium Outlets mall opened. This location is about a 20 minute drive from the airport and is technically situated in Halton Hills, not Toronto. I have not yet shopped there, however, the Yelp reviews have confirmed to me that there are more deals to be had by crossing the border and shopping in the United States.
August 12 – Aimia Inc., the company that owns the Aeroplan loyalty program, awarded their credit card contract to TD Bank, after 10 years with CIBC. CIBC had no intention of suing, but their protests led to a compromise: TD will become the primary issuer of new Aeroplan Visa cards for the next 10 years, and it will acquire the half of the CIBC Aerogold customer base that doesn’t have a banking relationship with CIBC. CIBC will retain the other half of their customer base.
December 27 – A technical glitch on The Brick website on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day gave online shoppers an additional 50% off their purchases. However, The Brick failed to honour this incorrect pricing, offering a measly 10% off instead.
December 21 – Due to an ice storm, approximately 600,000 Ontario residents were left without power. This was a huge issue in the city of Toronto, where some areas had no power for 3-7 days and in some cases, was not restored until New Year’s Day 2014. In Ontario, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a food gift card program sponsored by the province and several major grocery chains (Loblaw, Sobeys, Metro and Shoppers Drug Mart) to benefit people “in need” who had to throw out spoiled food due to the extended power outage. Interestingly, the gift cards were only being offered in the city of Toronto and not in all affected areas of the province. Of course they didn’t have enough cards to meet the demand (who doesn’t like the price of free?), which increased the anger and frustration of the people who had lined up for hours before being turned away empty-handed. Personally, I agree with Christina Blizzard of the Toronto Sun, who first wrote about “storm politics” and then provided the calculations to show why the food gift card program is doomed to fail.
Let’s hope that campaigning for the upcoming municipal, provincial and federal elections will somehow benefit all Canadians this year, as politicians jockey for our votes. Here’s to Happy Shopping in 2014!