06/05/2015 03:24 EDT | Updated 06/05/2015 03:59 EDT

Target Initially Rejected Zellers, Mulled Buying The Bay: CEO

Target moved into the Canadian retail market in a hurry and left it even faster, but it appears the U.S. retailer spent many years before that pondering just how to enter Canada.

Target Canada launched largely in former Zellers stores, but according to Hudson’s Bay Co. CEO Jerry Storch, who spent 12 years as an executive at Target, the Minneapolis-based retailer once considered different plans.

“When I’d been at Target we looked at buying Hudson’s Bay, in fact,” Storch told BNN.

That would have had to have been in 2005 or earlier, as Storch left Target that year. He didn’t elaborate, but noted that he was “surprised” the Minneapolis-based chain bought Zellers locations for its expansion — because in his day the company had rejected that option.

“We looked at buying [Zellers] several times and decided not do it, each time essentially because we didn’t think the Zellers stores were exactly right for target,” he said.

“So I was surprised when they did buy Zellers [locations] and subsequently put Target stores into it, but I was even more surprised by the departure.”

He didn’t blame Target for its rapid retreat from Canada. “Sometimes it’s better just to cut your losses and move on.”

Target Canada filed for creditor protection in January, in what is reportedly the largest insolvency in Canadian retail history.

The company took a $5.4-billion U.S. loss on its brief foray into Canada, which involved rapidly opening 133 stores across the country, primarily in former Zellers locations.

Its departure in the early months of this year cost 17,600 Canadian Target employees their jobs, and resulted in an enormous amount of empty retail space being tossed onto the market.

Walmart bought 13 of the former Target locations last month, along with a distribution centre in Cornwall, Ont., while Lowe’s bought the leases to another 13 stores and a distribution centre ni Milton, Ont.

But many other stores are sitting empty. Property manager RioCan is sitting on 18 Target leases, having been able to sell only eight thus far, BNN reported earlier this week.

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