Though Bed Bath and Beyond has just moved out, the new Canadian home and décor retail brand rooms + spaces is getting ready to move in.
Later this summer, the new chain will open in 21 stores left vacant by the now bankrupt Bed Bath & Beyond and buybuy BABY locations across five provinces. It is promising a range of home products, from essentials such as kitchen gadgets and charcuterie sets, to luxurious towels and bed wedges.
The person (and the company) behind the new brand is Canadian retail entrepreneur Doug Putman, who previously took over and relaunched Toys R Us and Babies R Us Canada, as well as Sunrise Records, HMV in the UK, and FYE, the largest pop culture chain in the U.S.
Despite the rise of online retail in the past decade, Putman said in a release that Canadians continue to crave “enjoyable in-store shopping experiences, where they can see and touch products, especially when it comes to outfitting a home. I see such a strong opportunity to invest in Canadian retail, and I’m always looking for new opportunities.”
“Our team is excited about creating product assortments tailored to Canadian homes and decorating styles,” said Greg Dyer, president of rooms + spaces, and former general manager of Bed Bath & Beyond Canada. “Whether it’s couples seeking affordable decorating or entertaining solutions, or parents supporting the needs of students moving away to school, our store associates are here to help consumers find everything they need to make their home their own.”
Putman and the rest of the rooms + spaces team believes there is a strong market and resurgent appetite for brick and mortar retail, said director of marketing Allyson Banks, who added the brand to her portfolio while continuing to oversee Toys R Us and Babies R Us.
“It’s about touching, feeling, understanding where I’m spending my money, what am I spending it on, because value is so incredibly important” she said. “As COVID finally went away, in all of the retail businesses within Doug’s portfolio, everybody went back to bricks and mortar because they want to be immersed into the brands and categories.”
Banks and creative director Salvatore Stranges are building the brand in-house, with Stranges responsible for the visual identify already on display across the website. Beyond that, they’re still building the infrastructure of the brand itself, crafting and refining each element—from product assortment, merchandising, and the media plan, to the in-store experience and advertising.
“We’re really happy with where we’re at with rooms + spaces [brand],” said Banks. “But the work that’s being done right now is bringing this brand to life from a marketing perspective.”
Underlying that will be the brand ethos that ties it together, shaped by consumers themselves, she said. Sustainability and the environment are important to Canadians so they will be central to the rooms + spaces brand, for example.
“But we’re also aware that does often come at a cost, and what typically happens is, customers want sustainability, they want all these things, but when the cost is on them, they quickly pivot,” she said. The rooms + spaces team is still looking for “the crossroads” between what customers say they want in terms of environmental impact, and what they will actually pay for.
At the same time, with plans to open by late summer, they’re working on communications plans and strategies. “Four weeks ago this brand didn’t exist. And now we exist. Nobody knows about us, except for the volume of media we’ve had from our release has been incredible,” she said. “We have to make sure we connect with Canadians empathetically to win share of heart, to get them to keep considering us when they’re shopping this category.”
Banks is working with Paradigm for PR, and will get support from GRM and Prospect media group for paid media and flyer promo, but she and Stranges will lead the communications strategy themselves, figuring out the right mix between brand versus promo, and what exactly they’ll say in the advertising.
“It would have been really nice to to engage with an agency partner on this because we know their strengths are so incredible on building brands,” she said. “But we’re moving so fast right now… We’re just adding additional head count into our marketing [and] creative team, and we’re going to keep it in house, probably for the next 12 months minimum.”