Serial entrepreneur Doug Putman plans to launch his latest retail venture by taking over most of the remnants of Bed Bath & Beyond, in a new chain called rooms + spaces.
Putman, who has made similar moves when HMV, Toys ‘R’ Us and DavidsTea went insolvent, plans to open the home store brand in 21 former locations of Bed Bath & Beyond and buybuy BABY storefronts later this summer.
“We certainly think that it’s a growth area, the market is massive — billions and billions of dollars,” Putman told CBC News in an interview.
Putman says the chain has been looking at the home and decor space for a while, and saw an opportunity when the U.S. retailer went bankrupt, which caused it to shutter dozens of locations across Canada.
“That is kind of the story with most things that we buy — good companies that have just lost their way,” he said. That’s a reference to Putman’s previous retail ventures, all of which follow a similar pattern: coming in and either moving into former locations of a defunct chain, or in some cases buying up the brand itself.
“We felt like we could put together a team that could service the Canadian marketplace, the way that Bed Bath & Beyond used to.”
Putman’s endeavour will start with 21 locations scattered across Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador. That’s less than half of the 60-odd locations that Bed Bath & Beyond took up, and Putman says he would have been happy to take in more.
“In some cases, there were other retailers that were interested and in some cases, the deals just didn’t make sense to do it, [but] anywhere that we’re not, we’re still looking,” he said.
In total, rooms + spaces will launch with 800,000 square feet of retail space, plus an e-commerce website. The company will be hiring about 500 people off the bat, and the venture will be led by Greg Dyer, the former general manager for Bed Bath & Beyond in Canada.
Putman says he would have been prepared to start with even more locations, but landlords had other tenants in mind.
A major one of those tenants was revealed in a separate piece of news on Wednesday, as Canadian Tire announced it would be taking over 10 former Bed Bath & Beyond stores and converting them into Mark’s Work Wearhouse and Pro Hockey Life locations.
Financial terms for Putman’s transaction were not released, but the price tag for Canadian Tire’s deal — $1.6 million to acquire 10 leases — suggests landlords were keen to find people to take over as many of Bed Bath & Beyond’s several dozen locations as possible.
“They got a great deal,” retail consultant Liza Amlani says, but that’s not to suggest that either venture is without risk.
The home and decor market that rooms + spaces is targeting, meanwhile, is huge and growing, she says, but already full with experienced, large players.
She notes that one of the chain’s locations will be in London, Ont., in an outlet mall that already has a half-dozen other chains selling similar goods in close proximity, from Winners, Marshalls and HomeSense to Bouclair, Urban Barn and Kitchen Stuff Plus.
“How do they know what the customer wants from them, as they never existed before?” she said. “That home customer has more choices than ever.”
She says it’s a monumental task to make sure the chain will have inventory on the shelves in time for launch, but Putman says he is confident that won’t be an issue, since vendors were very receptive to the plan.
“It’s a lot of inventory, it’s a lot of supply chain management, but it’s all stuff we’ve done before, so we feel pretty comfortable on our timeline,” he said.
Amlani said Putman’s strategy is “a crazy idea but it could work if certain ducks are in order.”