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Target pulling the plug on Canada operations; 133 stores affected

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Target Canada is no more.

The retail chain said Thursday morning it is shutting down operations in the North American country, not even two years after opening its first store there.

There are currently 133 Target Canada locations, which employ about 17,600 people. The stores will remain open as everything is sold off.

"After a thorough review of our Canadian performance and careful consideration of the implications of all options, we were unable to find a realistic scenario that would get Target Canada to profitability until at least 2021. Personally, this was a very difficult decision, but it was the right decision for our company," said Brian Cornell, Target chairman and CEO.

He noted the holiday sales period didn't live up to what the company had hoped.

The company is looking to put $59 million into a trust which, if approved by the courts, would provide nearly all Target Canada-based employees get at least 16 weeks of compensation, including some wages and benefits coverage.

It expects to report about $5.4 billion in pre-tax losses in the final quarter of 2014 due to the decision.

Target's troubled Canadian expansion

Target swooped into the Canadian scene with a big move in 2011, buying up more than 100 properties the discount retailer Zellers had moved out of.

The company opened its first Canadian stores in March of 2013. They were the retailer's first locations outside of the U.S.

Things quickly became rocky.

Inventory issues plagued the early locations, which troubled analysts. Within five months, customer satisfaction surveys showed Target Canada was near the bottom of the country's retail preference, with stores such as Wal-Mart and Costco beating the bullseye.

Target’s Canadian operations posted an operating loss of almost $1 billion in its first year.

By May of 2014, the company picked a new leader to helm the turnaround, with big changes promised. But a few months later, after the complaints kept streaming in, the company had to once again promise more big changes.

Speaking with the Star Tribune late in 2014, president of the Canada operations Mark Schnidele said the company may have moved too quickly. He had taken over for former CEO Gregg Steinhafel, who was behind the northward expansion.

“With the benefit of hindsight, I wished we wouldn’t have opened up so many stores as we did at once,” Schnidele told the paper.

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