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Target Corp. may be pursuing Zeller's

Speculation that Target Corp., the country's third largest retailer of home textiles, is pursuing the acquisition of Canadian discounter Zeller's just won't go away, at least in part because no one seems willing to actually deny it.

After stock analysts recently revived that scenario, a Toronto Star business columnist opined that the buyout was long overdue.

Zeller's is the general merchandise discount arm of Hudson's Bay Company, one of three retail channels operated by the 340-year-old northern retailer — the others being its namesake department stores and Urban Outfitters, its specialty home operation. Zeller's has struggled in recent years to retain its market position in the face of competition from Wal-Mart Canada and other retailers, including online.

But it's still not clear that a northern acquisition for Target, which has no presence in Canada, is imminent.

"Obviously, we don't agree with the premise of the story that a retail organization should stand still and not innovate," said HBC Spokeswoman Hillary Stauth. "We have a strategy, introduced last September to the market, to increase sales by $1.5 billion (Canadian) over the next five years."

Stauth then laid out a series of merchandising and pricing innovations being implemented at the company.

The company won't comment on "rumor," Stauth offers. The retailer is focused on executing its strategy. "And we'll continue to do that until such time as our shareholders tell us differently, or our customers tell us differently. Our chairman always reminds us we do not own this company; our shareholders own this company. And we will always do our best to derive the greatest value for our shareholders."

A spokesperson for Target declined comment.

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