The Canadian entrepreneur who last made a splash betting on a revival of Toys “R” Us Canada is getting into the home store business, with plans to open a new retail chain in 21 recently vacated Bed Bath & Beyond locations. Rooms + Spaces, Doug Putman’s new home store brand, is set to begin opening its doors in early July after taking over and revamping locations the U.S. chain Bed Bath & Beyond left behind when it went out of business this year. The first locations include 10 in Ontario, several of which are in the GTA.

Putman, who has built a mini Canadian retail empire over the past decade, snapping up struggling businesses like Sunrise Records and Toys “R” Us, told the Star he doesn’t know much about home goods but he loves a turnaround. “I like the challenge of it. And so in some ways, this is essentially that, because you are taking over spaces that were a Bed Bath previously and the business obviously wasn’t doing well,” he said, adding that while sheet thread count and expensive towels are not his thing, the business side of it is. “And if no one had come in and taken these spaces, I do think there was a gap in the market.”

Bed Bath & Beyond filed for creditor protection in Canada in February and looked to sell off 65 store leases. Putman’s company, DKB Capital, paid nearly $2 million to acquire 31 of those locations (along with the fixtures and equipment) in the court-supervised insolvency process.

Now, he’s left with dozens of 30,000 to 35,000-square-foot locations, empty of all inventory but well positioned to reopen as home goods stores. He’s hoping to strike deals with new landlords too, including in the Toronto market, as the chain’s reputation gains traction.

Putman said he believes Bed Bath & Beyond faltered in part because of supply chain issues that led to a lack of stock of key items shoppers expected to be available. The American company also misread the Canadian market at times, he said.

He hopes to address those issues through strong relationships with suppliers and a focus on local products. His new chain will include some of the brands previously stocked by Bed Bath & Beyond but introduce more Canadian options in place of its predecessor’s private-label brand.

He’s heard all the warnings about the death of brick-and-mortar retail and the competition he’ll face from giants like Amazon and Wayfair, but says his past experience proves shoppers still enjoy hands-on shopping.

“What COVID taught everyone was how much we appreciate these physical spaces,” he said. “And you know, everyone likes decorating their home.”

Putman Investments announced a deal to acquire 81 Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us locations from Fairfax Financial in 2021. The youthful serial turnaround specialist is also behind a revival of the Sunrise Records business, bought the U.K.’s HMV out of bankruptcy and launched the T. Kettle chain of tea shops in former DavidsTea locations in the early days of the pandemic.

Putman has tapped Greg Dyer, the former general manager of Bed Bath & Beyond in Canada, to run Rooms + Spaces and said he hopes to recruit other previous Bed Bath & Beyond employees to work in its stores.

The company, which said it wants to hire about 500 people in the coming months, plans to open four Rooms + Spaces locations each in British Columbia and Alberta, two in Saskatchewan, one in Newfoundland and 10 in Ontario. The Ontario stores are set to open in Belleville, Cambridge, East Gwillimbury, Kitchener, London, Richmond Hill, Stittsville, Stoney Creek, Whitby and Woodbridge.

Putman told the Star he’d like to have 30 Rooms + Spaces locations open by the end of the year and it will also have an online shopping option (its website launches in May).

Source: The Star