Giant Tiger partners with home decor expert Debbie Travis

Giant Tiger has partnered with well-known lifestyle figure Debbie Travis on a new line of bathroom, bedroom and home decor items that aims to strengthen its position in the growing home goods market while retaining the “proudly frugal” reputation that has long been a brand hallmark.

The Debbie Travis Collection launched last week with about 22 SKUs, ranging from a $3 facecloth to a $55 eight-piece “King Bed in a Bag” set featuring a comforter, pillows, pillowcases and sheets. The collection is expected to include nearly 50 items by the end of February, said Aaron Wade, Giant Tiger’s director of brand and customer communications.

Wade said the partnership with Travis has been in development for more than a year, and aligns with the company’s ongoing shift towards becoming a “trend forward discount retailer” while maintaining its reputation for quality affordability.

“[Travis’s] personality and mission to bring joy to people’s lives really matches up with who we are as a company,” said Wade. “We want to make sure that everything we put into our stores is [something] customers can use, and is at an affordable price.”

This is not the first time Travis has partnered with a prominent Canadian retailer. Canadian Tire first announced in 2005 that it would sell a line of Debbie Travis paints, a partnership that eventually grew to include 1,200 items spanning categories including window and floor coverings, lighting and storage/organization solutions.

And in 2015, Travis partnered with Sears Canada on a line of indoor and outdoor furniture, as well as bed, bath and decorative accessories.

But can fuzzy pillows and printed shower curtains help set Giant Tiger apart and drive incremental revenue in the crowded retail sector? “[It] allows them to carry a semi-national brand that has a bit of cache,” said Toronto retail analyst Bruce Winder. “I think it will create a bit of a halo effect.”

Winder said that Giant Tiger occupies a unique spot in the retail landscape: It tends to sit above discount stores like Dollarama, but below the likes of Walmart. “It’s not super crowded, but it’s [offering consumers] a great price point as more and more Canadians are watching their money.”

Giant Tiger could also benefit from the fact that Canadian Tire “pumped a lot of media” into supporting its line of Debbie Travis products, said Winder. That could potentially create some spillover in terms of added consumer awareness of Travis and her products for Giant Tiger.

Travis, meanwhile, brings a reputation for stylish affordability designed to appeal to Giant Tiger customers, particularly its core segment of busy moms. “It was an intentional idea to grab hold of part of Debbie’s brand and that elevated experience she brings, but really we’re staying in our space of being proudly frugal,” said Wade.

“[Being proudly frugal] doesn’t mean you have to give up being trend forward,” he added. “If you go to any of our stores and walk through any of the sections, you’re going to see great items.”

It’s not the first time that Giant Tiger has partnered with a well-known designer to launch an exclusive product line. In 2019 it partnered with Canadian fashion designer Simon Chang on a fashion line called “POP! by Simon Chang,” and has also teamed up with Pajar Canada on an exclusive line called La Neige by Pajar that includes parkas, hats, and socks.

It’s an approach that has been championed by other U.S. discount retailers like Target, which has counted prominent figures like Isaac Mizrahi, Alexander McQueen, and Missoni among its collaborators.

While Wade says it’s simply “good practice” to keep abreast of what rival brands are doing, he said that Giant Tiger’s efforts in the space are guided by the founding principles espoused by founder Gordon Reid when he opened his first store in Ottawa’s Byward Market in 1961.

“As a retailer, we have a rock-solid foundation to build the business on,” said Wade. “It’s really the guiding principles that Mr. Reid put in place that drive us forward.”

Giant Tiger is using a network of influencers including Megan McLeod (who boasts 119,000 Instagram followers) and Lyndsay Beal (72,900 followers) to promote the Debbie Travis Collection, and will also devote a significant portion of space in its e-flyer to the collection.

Travis also promoted the collection during a 40-minute appearance alongside lifestyle expert Taylor Kaye on Giant Tiger’s Instagram channel last week, and is set to make a future appearance on an episode of CTV’s weekday program The Marilyn Denis Show.

Wade said it’s too early to tell if Giant Tiger will look to explore additional collaborations, but said the company remains open to the idea. “Based on the feeling around this partnership [throughout] the business, we’re very optimistic,” he said. “And I think in the long run that will lead us to look for more opportunities to partner with other iconic Canadian brands.”

Chris Powell