Friday, September 14, 2007

Tim Hortons, Wal-Mart, and Democracy: The People's Choice

Not every country has Tim Hortons coffee and doughnuts for its residents., and those who don't have don't know what they miss. Those who know what they miss wish they could have. It's a gain in life to have a Tim Hortons coffee in the morning, and it's a delight to have a doughnut to go with it. Simple stuff, not the grand schemes of utopian social planning but a cup of good coffee and a fresh doughnut. There will be, and there are many, who scream about coffee itself, about the fat and sugar in a doughnut, about corporate profiteering, about low-wage workers and starving peasants in the Third World who make it all possible. For the Leftist, hardly anything can be worse than doughnuts and Wal-Mart together. It's one of those decisive lines one stands on either side of: one gets vitamins C and D from Tim Hortons or one communes with Nature at Starbucks. Israel/Palestinians. Emily Dickenson/Toni Morrison. Bach/Butthole Surfers.

We meet each week at Blenz coffee bar in Vancouver, Canada at the atrium of the library to talk and plot our revolution for freedom and democracy. We'd meet at Tim Hortons were it located at the Library. No grand pretensions about our gnostic superiourity, not a hint that we know everything about how the "masses" should live there lives, no ideas about how the world "should be" in spite of who and what people are in themselves.

Tim Hortons at Wal-Mart? It seems like a match made in Heaven.

Tim Hortons to open in Wal-Mart superstores
Three Outlets
Grant Surridge
Financial Post

Tim Hortons addicts can now get their fix while they shop at the world's largest retailer.

Wal-Mart Canada Corp. and Tim Hortons said yesterday the iconic coffee chain will open shops in three of the retailing giant's superstores by the end of the year, and observers say the two brands make a perfect couple.

"Tim Hortons brand has tremendous equity, and I think those benefits, particularly on the emotional side, will spill over into the Wal-Mart situation," said John Torella, a senior partner with the retail consulting firm J.C. Williams. "I think there's a good match there."

And even with the sometimes negative press Wal-Mart receives, he said that placing its brand in one of the country's busiest stores can only be good for Tim Hortons. Toronto-based retail consultant Anthony Stokan agreed.

"Given the typical traffic enjoyed by any Wal-Mart store anywhere in the country it's going to be a win-win for both of these companies," Mr. Stokan said.

"The loyalty enjoyed by Tim Hortons has got to be among the uniquest on the planet."

Both companies focus on simplicity and convenience, said Mr. Stokan, and do so effectively in targeting the same segments of the consumer market.

Indeed, the two companies say the deal boiled down to the fact each is chasing the same customers.

"We have the same kind of customers, people who are looking for convenience and value," Tim Hortons spokeswoman Rachel Douglas said yesterday.

Two of the Tim Hortons will be located in Wal-Mart locations in Alberta, in Edmonton and Lethbridge, and the other in Brockville, Ont.

Wal-Mart hopes to have seven Tim Hortons operating out of its Canadian stores by next year, and both companies say they are open to expanding that number depending on the success of the venture.

The coffee shops will feature seating areas, and will be located near the front of the stores, a space that is typically licensed to external companies.

The move is part of Wal-Mart's strategy to make its super stores a one-stop place for shopping, said spokesman Kevin Groh. Many of its stores feature hair salons, travel agencies and other services geared to the communities they are located in.

"I do wonder how McDonald's is going to feel about that situation," Mr. Stokan said. The fast-food giant has had a relationship with discount chain since the retailer came to Canada in 1994, and has 200 restaurants in Wal-Mart stores.

The co-branding benefits each company will likely enjoy from the deal should outweigh any potential conflict with other external vendors in the Wal-Mart stores, said Mr. Torella, adding that it will ultimately depend on the product overlap of each competitor.

"We will be under the same roof as other retailers such as McDonald's, but we feel like there's enough variety, value and difference of product that there's something for everyone," Ms. Douglas said.