The two catalogues from Hudson’s Bay that arrived with my Saturday paper are the finest I’ve ever seen from any Canadian retailer. The photography is equal to Architectural Digest, the layouts are clean, and the design appealing. The recently renamed Hudson’s Bay with its classy new logo has been improving since 2008 under American ownership and Bonnie Brooks as president and CEO. Her pre-Christmas radio and newspaper ads, focusing on daily specials with up to 70 per cent off, were disruptive and good for consumers. Sales in the last quarter of 2012, the most recent numbers available, were up year-over-year by a healthy 7 percent.
All retailers in Canada are looking to sharpen their offerings with the arrival of Target. Touted as the biggest thing to hit Canada since climate change, Target is set open 125 stores this year. In response, Wal-Mart has reduced prices and Canadian Tire has announced new formats. For my part, I’ve never understood the appeal of Target. I’ve visited Target in the U.S. and remain unimpressed either with store design or the quality of items. What’s the big deal about saving two bucks on Target’s made-in-China tee shirt versus someone else’s made-in-China tee?
To be sure, it’s taken five years for Hudson’s Bay to get where they are, but it’s a long way from the days of George “Pile ’em high and watch ’em fly” Kosich who was president of The Bay for ten years. Kosich fared well until Wal-Mart arrived in 1994 and within two years became the biggest retailer in Canada. This time around, with another U.S. competitor coming, The Bay seems better prepared.