By Mario Toneguzzi
For years, Mal Coven was a household name in the Canadian retail industry.
Now, as Coven prepares to turn 90 next year, he’s planning a resurrection of sorts of the Biway brand he built years ago but with a different concept.
The BIWAY $10 STORE is expected to make its debut next August in the Toronto market.
“We have a great location. Couldn’t ask for more. I’m so excited,” said Coven of the future site of the store in North York. It will consist of 7,500 square feet.
“The BIWAY $10 STORE is unique because we have adopted techniques used by supermarkets, fine specialty shops and the original Biway stores in presenting our merchandise. We are adopting the supermarket technique of using cut cases in presenting health and beauty aids and food. We are adopting the children’s shops clear visual department signing. We are adopting the original Biway stores technique of presenting. One storey makes it easier and simpler for the customer to make their buy. We are adopting wider aisles so the customer can move more freely between departments.”
Coven was one of the leaders in building the discount Biway store to about 250 locations across Canada over 28 years but operations shut down in 2001. He wrote a book about that experience - How I Succeeded in Retirement and the Biway Story.
Coven said the new chain under the same name will have a new concept and four additional stores will be open by the last quarter of 2020. The concept is based on $10. Items can be bought five for $10, four for $10, three for $10, two for $10 or one for $10.
“Nothing will be sold for more than $10. But there will be multiples of $10. They can buy one of the multiples. I already own in storage $100,000 worth of goods that I’ve bought at retail. It’s packed away for me. It’s stuff from branded goods. They’re huge.
“I have jackets that they’re selling for $38 and $40. Biway will sell them for $10. I’ve got 300 jackets. I have shoes from them priced at $26-$28 but we’ll be selling them for $10.
“I’ve gone to people. They’ve made commitments to me. I haven’t bought any more goods but they’ve made commitments to me. The store is going to be gangbusters. We’re going to have an average sale of $30 to $40. My plan is to do $3 million (in sales) but we’re going to do more than that . . . Our average sale at Biway used to be $12-$13.”
The Biway brand name of course is a seller in the Toronto market. Coven points to a survey by Goldfarb and Associates that found 96 per cent of people in Ontario are aware of the Biway name - 52 per cent shopped there regularly and 32 per cent shopped occasionally. The survey also found that 90 per cent thought Biway sold good quality merchandise, 95 per cent felt it gave good value, and 95 per cent would be interested in visiting a new Biway.
Coven said the Biway name will be an instant draw from day one.
Coven said the BIWAY $10 STORE is better prepared to launch its opening than any of the original Biway stores - better quality, better brands and better layout to make shopping a more enjoyable and comfortable experience for the whole family.
Coven said the store will sell “brands you know at prices you love.”
The store will be selling children’s wear from newborn and that will be about 35 per cent of the store’s goods.
“We’re not really a discount store in the normal sense of the word,” said Coven.
But the store will sell an assortment of other goods and products typically found in discount stores.
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.