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Let’s sing about Canada on the 4th

Yes, I am that evil.

Actually, that was pretty good. Play it again!


NEWS: US retailers struggle to succeed in Canada

I hear about this all the time at work (less often than I used to, but still). So I thought this could give some perspective on it:

US retailers struggle to succeed in Canada

In this March 4, 2013 file photo, snow is piled in the parking lot of the new Target store in Guelph, Ontario as Canadian Tire posts a Canadian message on their sign. For years, Canadians would cross the border to the U.S. to shop at Target. Exporting its cheap chic there seemed like a no-brainer. But a year after opening more than 100 stores north of the border, Target has found business isn’t so easy. Canadian Tire, which operates nearly 500 stores in the country and stocks housewares, barbecue grills and other items besides tires, has increased its marketing and deepened its assortment of home decor and other areas. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Dave Chidley)
In this March 4, 2013 file photo, snow is piled in the parking lot of the new Target store in Guelph, Ontario as Canadian Tire posts a Canadian message on their sign. For years, Canadians would cross the border to the U.S. to shop at Target. Exporting its cheap chic there seemed like a no-brainer. But a year after opening more than 100 stores north of the border, Target has found business isn’t so easy. Canadian Tire, which operates nearly 500 stores in the country and stocks housewares, barbecue grills and other items besides tires, has increased its marketing and deepened its assortment of home decor and other areas. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Dave Chidley)

For years, Canadians would cross the border to the U.S. to shop at Target. Exporting its cheap chic there seemed like a no-brainer.

But a year after opening more than 100 stores north of the border, Target has found business isn’t so easy.

Shelves are hard to keep stocked. Shoppers complain the prices are higher than at U.S. stores. Sales have been weak, and the retailer lost nearly a billion dollars in Canada for the year.

Cracking the Canadian retail market, about one-tenth the size of the United States’, looks simple. The two countries are neighbors. They are culturally similar. And Canada’s malls generate 20 percent more sales per square foot, because there are fewer of them.

But Target’s difficulties expose the challenges of doing business in Canada that have bedeviled other retailers. Some of the problems are old, like the web of costly regulations. But there are new ones, such as a slower Canadian economy and increasing competition that’s making the retail landscape look a lot like the U.S. economy.

The troubles are not what stores expected just a few years ago during the depths of the recession, when they saw Canada as a risk-free way of expanding internationally and re-energizing sales growth.

Now, Target is increasing marketing to convey it has unbeatable prices, while trying to make sure it has the right merchandise at the right time.

“I think there was an assumption that Target would come in and be everybody’s favorite store, but that hasn’t happened,” said Antony Karabus, president of Hilco Retail Consulting, who is based in Toronto.

Target has to fight hard to win over Canadians like Melanie Randall, a Toronto resident who crosses the border four times a year to Buffalo, N.Y., for shopping sprees at the store.

As for the Canadian Target stores, “It’s not the same,” said Randall, 42, who was recently browsing Target at Toronto’s East York Town Centre. “I don’t feel like I get the same deals or shopping experience.”

Target’s tough time in Canada isn’t unique.

Big Lots Inc. is closing its 78 Canadian stores, which it bought just two years ago. Executives declined comment, but Karabus blamed increasing competition amid discounters. Best Buy announced last year it was closing 15 of its 260 stores in Canada and cut about 5 percent of its workforce in the country as it tries to revamp its strategy.

Even Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which has been entrenched in Canada for more than two decades, has seen its sales falter.

One big problem: U.S. retailers tend to underestimate the much different employee benefit laws and other rules, including language regulations. All product packaging must be in both English and French. In Quebec, stores are required to make French more prominent in marketing and signs.

Canada also has a tenth of the population of the U.S. but covers a larger area. That makes distribution more costly.

Aside from those complications, Canadian shoppers are under new financial pressures. The Canadian dollar has weakened, forcing retailers to charge higher prices. Because 90 percent of Canadians live within an hour’s drive of the U.S. border, they are used to crossing over to compare deals, according to Diane Brisebois, president and CEO of Retail Council of Canada.

Competition is also heating up, particularly in discount retailing. Homegrown Canadian standbys like Dollarama and Canadian Tire are formidable rivals.

Canadian Tire, which operates nearly 500 stores in the country and stocks housewares, barbecue grills and other items besides tires, has increased its marketing and deepened its assortment of home decor and other areas.

Canadian Tire, which has been in business nearly 100 years, has loyalty with shoppers who might remember buying their first bike there, said Jim Danahy, CEO of CustomerLAB, a retail consultancy in Ontario.

Each store is also owned and operated by a dealer so it tailors its merchandise to the local market, whether farm town or big city. The stores also offer convenience. Ninety percent of Canada’s population lives within 15 minutes of a Canadian Tire store.

Given the challenges, upscale Nordstrom just postponed the Canadian debut of its discount Rack stores by two years until 2017 as it prepares to open its first full-line department store in Calgary this fall.

Some, like Wal-Mart Canada and Marshalls parent company TJX, are digging in.

Wal-Mart is adding 35 super centers in the current fiscal year, bringing the count to 395 by the end of January 2015.

Wal-Mart reported in February a 1.7 percent drop in revenue at Canadian stores open at least a year in the fourth quarter. Wal-Mart cited price competition and weak spending.

To lure shoppers, it’s pushing $1, $2 and $3 products. Karabus said price wars have hurt Wal-Mart, but business is still very solid.

Canadians looked financially healthier only a few years ago.

Sears expanded into Canada through a joint venture in the early 1950s , while several other major retailers including Home Depot and Wal-Mart entered Canada in the 1990s. But momentum increased following the Great Recession as the Canadian economy was hurt less by the financial meltdown.

In fact, as consumer spending in the U.S. started souring, Canadians continued to buy, nearly catching up to their American counterparts based on retail sales per household, said Colliers International, a global real estate firm.

That’s a big deal. For years, Americans were much bigger spenders than Canadians. As recently as 2004, Canadian retail sales per household equated to US$8,000 while south of the border, Americans’ spending was 50 percent higher at about $12,000 per household.

But after both countries saw spending plunge in the recession, the gap is again widening, with American retail sales per household at about $14,394; it’s $13,014 for Canadians, Colliers said.

That’s because Canadians are deeper in debt than Americans, on average, because many bought big-ticket items like homes at low interest rates. That has left less room for impulse spending.

It now would take a little more than a year and a half for Canadians to pay off their debt using all their income after taxes, compared with one year for Americans, Dana M. Peterson, director of global economics at Citi Research.

Linda An, 36, who recently bought a house in Toronto and is dealing with higher daily living costs, said she’s less confident. She regularly shops at American clothing stores in Canada like Banana Republic and Forever 21, but prices matter. As for household goods, she looks for the best price.

“I’m just being even more conscious looking for deals,” An said.

The environment has pressured American retailers to closely monitor prices, which are generally 10 percent to 15 percent higher in Canada than at U.S. stores, Danahy said.

At clothing retailer Tommy Bahama, which operates nine stores in Canada, the Canadian store had prices 15 percent to 20 percent higher than its U.S. stores. It’s now bringing its prices even with those at its U.S. stores after acquiring its Canadian business back from its licensee.

“(Canadians) are used to watching currency fluctuations and using that to their advantage,” said Doug Wood, Tommy Bahama’s president and chief operating officer.

Analysts are closely watching Target Canada. Target said the stores carry a majority of the merchandise shoppers see at U.S. stores. And Target said it is improving its selection and fixing out-of-stock issues.

It has much work ahead: Target’s Canadian business recorded a $724 million loss on lower-than-expected sales of $1.3 billion for the year ended Feb. 1.

A key to Target’s plans: convincing shoppers it’s priced just right.

Target said it’s not planning to permanently cut prices. The company said prices are in line with those of rivals in Canada, including Wal-Mart, and in some cases are lower. But it acknowledges they’re generally higher than at its U.S. stores.

“We are right on where we need to be in Canada,” Gregg Steinhafel, Target’s chairman and CEO told investors. “Sometimes people compare prices from Canada. That would be like comparing prices in Boston to what we have in rural Iowa.”


AP Retail Writer Anne D’Innocenzio reported from New York.

Documentary Week – China’s Dessert Mummies : Documentary on the Taklamakan Mummies

Learning more about China makes them more and more interesting everyday.

Roving Reporter: Canada

LOLS. Why don’t you ask “What is the Capital of North Dakota?” Answer is, who cares . . .

Learning A British Accent on Travel with Kate

So, today’s my birthday and I am extremely busy – mostly because I have to work on my Birthday – but I also don’t wanna deal with the blog today. So, I picked something that I love to do – try new accents. Enjoy!

10 Hardest Working Countries

Yup, we are in there. But look at these stats, most of the hardest working countries make incredibly low wages. What is with that?

Gaming Week 3 – The National Museum of Play

So, you are asking – what is a post on The National Museum of Play doing on a week dedicated to video games? Surely, toys and dolls are not related to the wonders of Video Games. WRONG!!!!! The National Museum of Play or The Strong Museum as we know it locally has an extensive collection of rare and unique video games. Worth the 20 minute drive from my house! I plan to go there ASAP. But honestly, you should go too – if you can make it to Rochester, NY.

Rare Japanese and European Video Games at the National Museum of Play-Game|Life-WIRED

Rare Tetris, Fix it Felix, ActRaiser and Hercules Arcade Games-Game|Life-WIRED

Anime North 2013 Report

So, I wanted to tell you what happened at Anime North this year before it gets too late. Unfortunately, because of poor planning and work I haven’t been able to sit down and write before today (Thursday). And I am sure by now that plenty of people have talked about their Anime North experience but now. So, before we get too far away from the con, let me tell you what happened last weekend.

2013-05-26 12.43.54

Why don’t I start with negative? that way I can talk about the positive later. I started the new job this year. Instead of being in the staff lounge I was working in staff registration. And while the job itself didn’t bother me, I didn’t like how poorly it was managed this year. This is partly because of a handover of power (sorta). What I needed as a new member of this department was a clear idea of the hours and what I can and cannot do. I tried getting an idea of what and when I was needed before the con, however, that didn’t work. I got the most information or my friend Lisa who wasn’t anywhere near department manager. It’s how I based when I would be traveling. And as it turned out they did meet me but also didn’t.

With no clear direction next two days pasted a little slow. Thursday I didn’t really care whether or not I was out and about. However, Friday I did. There are couple of events that I thought of attending that I never did. Also, for a long time I was quite hungry and all I had was the water and sandwiches. But I couldn’t leave or at least so I thought. I thought this was a job that while you were there you had stay put until released. This is not the case, but I didn’t know it at the time. So I got angry, frustrated, and spiteful. Something I wouldn’t want to be on a vacation.

If they had taken so much as 10 minutes to explain to me my exact responsibilities and what I am allowed to do this situation would have never occurred. As it was, I very angry. And I returned to the hotel that night tired and angry. Which is a bad combination to my friend’s exhaustion and rage.

Now, I’m not going to describe exactly what happened to my friend. That’s his business. But what I will say is that he had a very similar experience to what I had. The only difference was it was a lot worse. No food, no water, no rest. Needless to say we had a very bad night.

Luckily for me, my convention started improving Friday night. That’s when we got released early to go to the Nominoichi. Basically, what in the Nominoichi is a Anime and Japanese themed flea market. I love the Nominoichi. Then again I love flea markets. So, it’s kind of a no-brainer that my mood would improve! Of course, I went home with some goodies from the sale but I’ll talk about that later.

On Saturday morning I hung out at my position for a couple hours then headed out with my friend Lisa to take pictures of cos-players and to check out Artist’s Alley. This is when most of my photos from the con was taken. We had a great time up to the point in which we came across my friend Tom again. His day hadn’t gone as nicely as ours had. And I got an earful. I can’t say that I am happy about what happened between me and Tom last weekend but it happened. I didn’t intend for him to have such a bad time and in my opinion it didn’t deserve how he treated me. His situation wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t fair to take it out on me.

Needless to say, after Friday night Tom and I didn’t hang out very much. He did his thing and I did mine. And for the most part it worked. I ran around the con taking pictures of cosplayers, meeting new people, and hanging out with Lisa. So, so that part of the con was a blast. I’ll admit that I didn’t really attend Any panels or workshops during the con but it didn’t matter. I was having fun. It was pure Anime North.

Of course, I did end up at the dealers room as I planned. However, I found nothing that I wanted to buy. Save possibly a corset custom made for me. It was fun trying them on and I may choose to wear one for a costume one day. Sadly, the con was almost over and I had a meeting to attend. So, Lisa and me made our way back to the staff office. That is where I learned the most about my job and I shared my concern over the lack of information this year.

Once we finished this meeting, I was off my friends Lisa and her husband Chris. And they had an important meeting to get to. As for me, I was staying over at their house so I free range. That’s when I sent Monday’s post and waited for the next day.

Monday was probably the worst day for me. Chris hadn’t realized that his passport was expired and they couldn’t take me across the border as planned. This was horrible. However, I had an even worse shock when I called my mother to attempt to get a ride across the border. She told me that my father had gone to the hospital. Now, getting across the border had new meaning.

It took a bit of work and a few phone calls but I did eventually find a ride. Cathy, my friend from work, agreed to come across the border and fetch me. All we had to do was get to Niagara Falls. And after an hour or two we made it there. I made a switch and was home in less than a hour.

So basically, that’s how my weekend went. It had its upsides and its downsides but it was the experience to remember. And while I am not 100% sure that I am attending Anime North 2014–I most likely am. I did have fun and it is still important to me. So, most likely I will be going again next year–despite the problems. And I will most likely remain in this department. I like it beyond the one issue it had.

Now that the con is finished

So, I haven’t been really posting anything that has been going on all weekend despite a lot going on. That will soon change. I am currently at a friend’s house and not at the con anymore (besides it is almost over – like less than hour). I will be uploading some of the images shortly, but I will leave the entire story until Wednesday or Thursday. I have some videos but that will have to wait until I am state-side and have access to my compy.

Preparing For Anime North: Part 2 – Anime North 2012

So, Anime North 2013 is almost upon me but it would be wrong to go to this year’s con without looking at what happened last year. (Please note everything in this post wasn’t created by me – to see that, look at the archives, thank you.) Let’s get going!


Remember CardCaptor Sakura? Well, maybe you remember CardCaptors, the butchered English ver of this show. In any case, it is a completely adorable Magical Girl story with a sweet and powerful young girl. Can you guess her name? Yup It’s Sakura!!! Which means Cherry Blossom in Japanese, real cute! Which makes this doll even cuter!

Source: DollNorth 2012/13 (Seriously, they have their own tumblr).


So, Toronto has a large Japanese Population or at least a large Asian Population – it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes (Don’t hate! It’s true). Many of those young, Japanese People come to the con. It’s almost like going to Japan, only it’s Toronto and everyone speaks great English. Now, at this con there are a lot of people like me – who are white, but there are almost as many are Asian. You will see whole groups that dress up and are completely Asian. Like this group, only I know one of those dudes is totally white – can you guess which one?

PS: Yeah I know the Kisuke might also be white, it’s a bit hard to tell . . .

Source: The HeavensAnswer


So, if you haven’t heard this from me before – listen – the best Entertainment of the Con is free. 100% free. It is the large numbers people coming and going in front of the TCC (Toronto Congress Centre). You see the back is where both registration & the dealer’s rooms lie – so there are large groups of people there at all times. People are coming and going, dressed up in their best cosplay.

But that’s not the part that is entertaining. It’s the people around them! Generally, the rest of the public treat these cosplayers as if they were celebrities. Stopping them, asking for pictures, etc. And these cosplayers often have poses or skits that they do for the pictures. So, literally, without paying, you can sit on the lawn watching the action around you. And it is VERY entertaining. And 100% free!

Source: FreudianLolita


If you ever saw, William Shatner’s Get A life, then this is no surprise to you, but: we should be so lucky as to be inspired by something to create art (paraphrased of course). And while these are NOT Trekkies, they are just as passionate. And they do make us question, do you have enough time on your hands?

Source: MsYumYumSoGood


So, this section has two, count it two photos of different people!!! WOOOTTT!!! Anyway, A staple of any con is cross-dressing.Be it male or female, it doesn’t matter. It’s okay and is actually kinda cool. Think about it: What would Sailor Moon look like as a guy? Or Superman as a girl (I saw that once)? It might be pretty cool!


Source: A-Novels end

Believe it or not, this image was fairly hard to find – men seem to cross-dress as women a lot more than women cross-dress as men.


Read the rest of this entry

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