By Mario Toneguzzi
The iconic Toronto-based retailer Bad Boy Furniture is set to continue its expansion efforts in southern Ontario and beyond as chairman and CEO Blayne Lastman builds on the well-known brand he resurrected in 1991.
“We’re going to stay just in Ontario for now. So maybe three or four more and then just take a little rest,” said Lastman.
“We’re not ruling out plans for other places in Canada but very, very cautious.”
The Bad Boy phenomenon began in 1955, when Mel Lastman, Blayne’s father, opened his first Bad Boy store on Weston Road. From there it was built up to 45 stores across Canada and employed more than 1,000.
But in 1974, Lastman sold it to remain in politics as he was Mayor of the City of North York.
“Ten months later Bad Boy closed and was out of business for 16 years until I brought it back in 1991,” said Blayne Lastman.
The first store, and flagship store, was at 1119 Kennedy Road in Scarborough. Today the company has superstores in Ancaster, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Kitchener, London, Mississauga, North York, Scarborough, Whitby.
“We’re right now opening August 15 in Kingston, Ontario and we’re in the middle of negotiations in Ottawa,” said Lastman.
And despite a challenging economy, Bad Boy has been booming.
“Our year end is September 30 and last year was the best year we ever had in our history. We’ve been fortunate - very, very fortunate. And we’re e-commerce as well. We’re fully e-commerce in our trading areas only right now which will be opened up to the rest of the country in the near future,” said Lastman.
“The year before last was the best year and this year outdid it.”
On the company website, it describes the time Lastman brought the brand back to life, taking Ontario by storm.
“His decision to re-open the new store in the center of Toronto’s "furniture strip" had many naysayers scratching their heads. This prime location, coupled with zany promotional initiatives, proved to be invaluable in Bad Boy’s success! The nineties were an extremely challenging time with the recession, especially for the business community, and many long-standing companies had no other choice but to close down. Blayne, who had just as much gusto as his father, beat all odds by implementing an innovative, flash-forward sales strategy,” it says.
When asked in a recent interview why he wanted to re-open the brand, he joked: “A moment of craziness.”
“It was always my dream to do it. When I opened in 1991 my father told me I was out of my mind because it was the worst recession this country’s ever seen. But there we were and we knew something which was we were going to work harder as a team which we do than anyone else,” explained Lastman.
“And we do all these zany types of promotions . . . All kinds of things. And we do a big business with the builders and on the retail side.”
So what sets the Bad Boy brand apart from the numerous competitors in the marketplace?
“Everything. A fridge is a fridge is a fridge. It’s one of the most boring things in the world but we build the excitement around it,” said Lastman. “And we give good old-fashioned service because that’s the most important thing. And the lowest prices guaranteed. And when we say it we mean it.”
Lastman’s eclectic ideas and gimmicks infused shoppers with excitement and captured an enormous amount of media attention, explains the company’s website.
“In fact, in 1994, the United States White House served Bad Boy with a "Cease and Desist" order for Bad Boy's use of a President Bill Clinton look-a-like. In typical Bad Boy style, Blayne did not Cease and Desist; instead, he responded with, "This is Canada, not the 51st State!" Following this, there was a sequel commercial featuring a Hillary Clinton look-a-like! The Clinton look-a-like promotion caused such a sensation around the world that journalists and talk show hosts from Germany, Japan, the United States and Italy all called for interviews with the now infamous Blayne Lastman.”
In 2006 Bad Boy formally became Lastman's Bad Boy.
“He’s got a good feel for our consumer. He’s done all of our stores for the last decade or more and he’s done a great, great job,” said Lastman.
The stores are typically 25,000 to 30,000 square feet. The biggest one is 34,000 square feet in London.
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.