Target store

At a Toronto-area Target store on Saturday, it was business as usual, days after the chain announced it was leaving the Canadian market. (CBC)

Target Canada is telling customers to expect the liquidation of the U.S.-based chain's merchandise to begin sometime in early February.

The retail chain, which announced last week it would be shutting its 133 Canadian stores in the near future, has reached out to people on social media who had asked what the timeline was for the liquidation process. 

"Nothing definitive yet in terms of liquidation timing [but] we do expect it will begin in about 2-3 weeks," Target Canada spokesman Eric Hausman told CBC News via email.

But within four to five months, the chain's entire Canadian presence — including its distribution centres across the country — will be gone.

In the interim, the chain's U.S. owners will be moving quickly to offload the millions of dollars in merchandise and other goods, such as fixtures and office supplies.

According to CBC reporters on the ground, customers who showed up at Target stores this past weekend were greeted to full stores and lineups at checkout, but no discernible signs of heavily discounted merchandise that normally accompanies a liquidation process.

Target has more than 17,000 employees in Canada, and the chain says it has created a  trust fund of up to $70 million to address up to 16 weeks of pay for employees.    

"The Employee Trust will provide all eligible Target Canada-based team members with a minimum of 16 weeks of compensation, including wages and benefit coverage for those team members who are not required for the full wind-down period," the company said in a statement when the closure plans were announced.

But Lee Harbinson, an employee at the discount retailer's Pickering Town Centre location in Ontario, says the 16-week figure isn't the same as severance, as many employees will still be working during the 16 weeks the discount chain is winding down its operations.

Harbinson, who works part time unloading trucks and stocking the clothing section, said he wasn't surprised by the news, as he had watched sales languish for the nearly two years he was at the store.

"I'm not in panic mode just yet," Harbinson said. "I saw this coming from a mile away."

With files from The Canadian Press