If you're in the States, and maybe even if you're not, you're familiar with Target. If you have Canadian friends, you might also be tuned into the long-held desire a lot of Canadians had for Target to make it's way up north. Canadian friends of mine were always sure to make a trip when they were south of the border, and longed for stores closer to home. Target did eventually land in Canada, but it quickly became apparent that Target Canada and Target America were two different animals. Things were bumpy, and just a couple of years after opening, Target Canada shuttered their doors.
So what happened?
A friend of mine shared this article that details it all - from the original real estate deal that forced an impossible timeline, to all the issues with new systems, data errors, and a million other tiny things that meant "What appeared to be isolated fires quickly became a raging inferno threatening to destroy the company’s supply chain." What did the boots on the ground think? Why were warehouses overflowing with goods, but store shelves were empty? How did company culture, which had worked so well otherwise, backfire under these circumstances? What does a customer in a Target Canada see (or not see) on a shelf when someone at the home office in Minnesota toggles a switch on a data system for reporting reasons? What happens when a supplier gives the wrong information about the dimensions of a product box and no one verifies it? Why wouldn't they verify it?
It's an interesting story on its own, but it also took me back to direct marketing; working with giant mailing lists that had to be segmented, sliced and diced a million ways, and processed through various vendors to ensure that mail & emails landed in the right inboxes at the right time. It had me remembering systems upgrades, vendor changes, process scale-up, and all the time it takes to actually learn a system. What happens when there's no one around to learn from because the system is new to everyone? Is it better to try and make some hard and time-consuming changes to a system everyone already knows, or go with an industry standard that everyone has to learn from scratch?
As I said, a fascinating piece. And maybe something that will have you walking down memory lane, too.