TORONTO -- Target generated big buzz north of the border with a  Jason Wu pop-up shop, splashy presentations at Toronto's World  MasterCard Fashion Week and collaborations with homegrown brands  such as Roots and Beaver Canoe.

   The designer partnerships and limited-edition fashion lines were  a big selling point for the discount retailer, but they couldn't  draw enough foot traffic and sales to help keep Target afloat in  Canada.

   The Minneapolis-based retail giant announced Thursday that it  would be closing up shop across the border, a move that will impact  133 stores.

   "I don't think that their merchandising followed through with  what they had promised," said Wendy Evans, head of Toronto retail  consultancy firm Evans and Company Consultants Inc.

   "You go into the store, you don't see the presence of those  interesting brands up front: you see a sea of unstocked shelves and  fairly drab merchandise."

   Michael Mulvey of the University of Ottawa said generating  interest through high-profile events was core to Target's mission  and positioning strategy but any buzz became "overwhelmed with  discussion about price."

   "The chatter I saw in the media, a lot of it had to do with how  their prices weren't the same as they were in the U.S., and also how  their prices weren't as deeply discounted as you'd find at  Wal-Mart," said Mulvey, assistant professor of marketing in the  Telfer School of Management.

   "I think a lot of people started thinking more about price than  all of the other wonderful virtues that are Target's strengths in  the U.S."

   Mulvey used to live in the U.S. where he said Target never  pretended to be price-comparable with its biggest competitor.

   "The idea was if you wanted to buy a garbage can for your  office, you could go to Wal-Mart, you could go to Target. But the  one at Target's going to be nicer-looking and it might cost you a  buck and a half more," he said.

   "They were very clear about what they stood for in the States,  and I think part of the problem they had in Canada was it wasn't as  clear. I think a lot of Canadians had the expectation that it was  all about the price and a lot of the virtues like the merchandise  selection and the unique qualities about the designer clothes  weren't as foreground here."

   Brynn Winegard, a marketing expert with Winegard & Company, said  while there was a select group of consumers who appreciated Target's  fashion partnerships -- which also featured limited-edition lines  with Canadian designers Melissa Nepton and Sarah Stevenson -- it  didn't translate to the wider mass market.

   "I'm closely allied to the fashion department at (Toronto's  Ryerson University) and we heard a lot about Target through our  students and through other people. But that was a very niche  audience that isn't enough, frankly, for a generalistic department  store to survive," said Winegard.

   In addition to criticism of higher prices in Canadian stores,  Winegard said operational and supply chain management challenges  also hurt the retailer.

   "If they really wanted to establish in Canadians' minds: 'Hey,  we're a one-stop shop,' they had to have had a full complement of  product on shelves," she said.

   "In actual fact, most people walked out and said: 'I didn't find  anything I was looking for, nothing was in stock. There are whole  sections with nothing on shelves."'

   Blogger Lena Almeida said she loved shopping at Target in the  U.S. for the designer collaborations and the ability to obtain items  she couldn't in Canada -- namely, stylish pieces at affordable  prices. But her shopping habits didn't change when Target opened  closer to home.

   "I don't think it was the fault of them not having amazing  collaborations, but I do think that when I went to Target, I went  for those specific fashion one-offs (only), and I have a lot of  friends in the same age demographic, household income range that  were doing the same thing," said Almeida, who blogs at

   The Mississauga, Ont., mom of two said pricing was a big reason  she didn't buy other items at Target.

   "I think that every Canadian mom knows her prices and knows  where to get the best deals. We have our favourite places to go, and  unfortunately, other than a few deals on toys when they had  clearance specials, I didn't see a huge motivating factor for me to  make Target my go-to store."