Consumers Distributing Retail Chain to be Revived by Veteran Entrepreneur [Interview] 

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Entrepreneur Marco Revah has plans to revive the once-iconic Consumers Distributing brand. Closed for over a quarter-century, Consumers Distributing was known for its pioneering retail model. Revah, a seasoned retail veteran, aims to breathe new life into the brand with an updated concept, Consumers Distributing 2.0, designed to cater to modern consumers and their changing shopping preferences.

Revah sits down with Retail Insider’s Craig Patterson to discuss the plans in the video below this article, which also includes a transcript.

Founded in 1957, the original Consumers Distributing quickly became a staple in Canadian shopping culture. The retailer’s unique approach allowed customers to browse products in-store or order from catalogs, with goods not already in-store being delivered to their doorstep. This innovative concept was revolutionary for its time, offering a wide array of products including electronics, furniture, appliances, and toys. However, the original brand faced challenges due to its limited product availability over time, which Revah says that he aims to tackle with his ambitious project.

Revah, a seasoned entrepreneur with a rich history in the retail industry in Canada and the US, has acquired the rights to the Consumers Distributing name. With a fresh approach, Consumers Distributing 2.0 will reimagine the retail experience by collaborating closely with third-party distributors to ensure products are readily available and directly shipped to customers. This move is a strategic response to the current dominance of e-commerce giants like Amazon and Alibaba.

Image: Consumers Distributing

The heart of Consumers Distributing 2.0 lies in its blend of the digital and physical. Revah envisions large “big box” showrooms of up to 300,000 square feet that provide customers the opportunity to interact with products before making a purchase. These showrooms, housed in former retail spaces such as Nordstrom stores in Canada, will serve as touch-points for customers seeking a tactile shopping experience. Additionally, the brand will offer an online platform where distributors can showcase their products, creating a comprehensive shopping ecosystem.

For physical stores, Revah says he’s interested in speaking to landlords Cadillac Fairview and Oxford Properties about occupying former Nordstrom spaces. He’s also interested in former JC Penney and Macy’s locations in the US for Consumers Distributing. 

Revah’s innovative approach extends to the membership model he plans to introduce. For a one-time fee of $89, members will gain access to a range of benefits, including a 5% discount on purchases and complimentary refreshments while shopping. In a departure from traditional warehouse clubs, Consumers Distributing 2.0 will welcome all customers without membership checks at the entrance, ensuring inclusivity.

While Consumers Distributing 2.0 is gearing up for its revival, Revah’s expansion strategy targets major Canadian cities like Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver. The aim is to establish these cities as launchpads for Consumers Distributing showrooms, leveraging existing retail spaces for optimal impact. As the venture gains momentum, Revah remains open to considering purpose-built buildings for future expansion.

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Transcription

Craig Patterson 0:03
Welcome to the Retail Insider Video Interview series. I’m your host today, Craig Patterson, and we’re joined here today with a special guest. This is Marco Revah and we’re going to be talking a bit about the revival of Consumers Distributing in Canada and perhaps even beyond. Welcome, Marco.

Marco Revah 0:20
Oh, thank you very much. Great, very nice to meet you.

Craig Patterson 0:23
Now, we’re going to talk a bit about Consumers Distributing. It was a retailer that I think had shut down 27 years ago. Now, I think it’s been in Canada, very well known in terms of having had stores around the country. Basically, either order things, and it would be in the store or you’d have it shipped to you. How did you get the rights the Consumers Distributing name?

Marco Revah 0:45
I’m 61 right now. But when I was a kid, I’ve, I’ve shopped there. I’ve experienced the Consumer Distributing concept. I’ve been a retailer pretty much my whole life since the age of 16. I saw that there was an availability at the trademark offices in the United States and in Canada for the rights and the name of the brand of Consumers Distributing. So I purchased them. I’m looking to launch them, hopefully within the United States and Canada.

Craig Patterson 1:21
And tell me about the concept that you’re conceptualizing for this Consumers Distributing 2.0?

Marco Revah 1:29
Basically, knowing about the company – I think their downfall was that the products were not readily available. And I think by what’s happening today in our world (with the Amazons and Alibabas of the world), basically we are launching it in a different format. What we’re doing is we’re working with the distributors to hopefully ship directly to the consumers. A consumers and distributors website as well is something that we required. On our online platform, we will have the actual distributors load their products that are available within the actual website. And then we’re looking for a big boxes, that we would also be able to generate our type of showroom stores. So basically, our suppliers will ship samples to our stores and also upload on our site. Our big boxes, we’re looking to take over some of Nordstrom or Macy’s or JC Penney’s – some stores that have closed down. We’re looking for to 200,000 to 300,000 square foot where we’re able to show product. Basically have the consumer walk in and see like if they were going to a trade show, and go into each category with each brand.

Marco Revah 3:02
Nobody will be able to walk out with anything, but basically they can buy the product and get it shipped from the distributor to the consumer. If there’s a return, then the consumer will ship it back to the distributor, and so on and so forth. So we won’t have a lack of merchandise or we won’t have a problem with unavailable products. And I think that will be hopefully our success. When I was reading about a lot of advertising or I would say a lot of ads of what the original concept was about – the biggest problem was merchandising and getting the merchandise that was allocated to the consumer. So now, I think that we’ve cured this problem and looking forward to opening pretty soon, getting our big boxes together, opening up our market site on online. And that’s how this this hopefully this new Consumers Distributing format stores or concept will hopefully be launched.

Image: consumersdistributing.com

Craig Patterson 4:12
Very interesting. Now, what sort of product categories have you thought of that would be part of these new Consumers Distributing stores (both the physical stores – which are acting as showrooms – as well as online)?

Marco Revah 4:23
We’re thinking only going for ‘hard goods’. We’re not going for ‘soft goods’: meaning we’re not doing any clothing. We’re not doing any shoes or jewelry or or apparel. We’re going into beddings of furnitures and fixtures and equipments and instruments. Basically, we’re going from air conditionings to ovens and refrigerators and TVs and stereos and, and everything that’s pretty much ‘hard goods’ that people don’t normally walk out of stores with.

Craig Patterson 4:50
And these would be in terms of the physical showrooms quite large. You’re saying two to 300,000 square feet. Let’s talk about Canada a bit more. You’re looking for some larger retail spaces to do this, right?

Marco Revah 5:03
Yes. So because I’ve actually had a conversation with Oxford, I’ve seen that, you know, there’s a Nordstrom that has shut down in Yorkdale, I think, and in other locations in Vancouver, etc. So we’re looking to either take over those types of big box stores and convert them into Consumers Distributing stores.

Craig Patterson 5:22
Right. And you said the United States as well with JC Penney, which is I think closing some stores Sears – I don’t even know if it exists in the states anymore – or Kmart or even Macy’s, right?

Marco Revah 5:32
Yes. So well, Sears, we were looking into Coral Gables. There’s a Simon project where there’s also we’re looking at JC Penney’s here in New York. And these are stores that have been closed down for a little bit. One of them for a couple of years. So we’re looking to redevelop these big boxes into these Consumers Distributing big box stores. Yeah,

Craig Patterson 5:53
And so the online and in store would be, I guess, connected in terms of you’d have third party distributors that would be part of this retail concept, they would be showcasing their product in the physical stores, but also would have a very robust e commerce presence as well as part of this ConsumersDistributing.com.

Marco Revah 6:12
Yes, ConsumersDistributing.com, will be set up as a marketplace. It’ll be like an Alibaba and Amazon where the actual distributor, or the actual supplier, will load up the products within our site. People will be able to shop online, and at the same time, they’ll be able to visit a store if they would like to see the actual goods. So they’re going to work both in conjunction with each other, yes, then that’d be our concept.

Craig Patterson 6:45
And you were looking at sort of a warehouse club concept with a membership. Tell me a little bit more about how that might work.

Marco Revah 6:51
We’re actually offering an $89 membership. The $89, it’ll be a one time membership. We are not looking to charge it annually, like most of the people do. It’ll be a one time membership, where you’ll get a 5% discount. But at the same time, we didn’t want to limit the consumer or the customer coming through the front door. We would not stand there like a Costco who would actually sit there and say, “Show me your card before you go in”. We’re going to let them all in. At the same time when you buy I don’t know, sofas, bedroom, TVs, etc. And you’re looking at spending $1000s, you’ll save an automatic 5% on all the goods being a member of Consumers Distributing. And hopefully, people will see a lot of savings. Because don’t forget that we’re trying to get a distributing price to the consumer. And that’s why we’re called Consumers Distributing. That’s, we match the name, the name says it all. And I love that.

Craig Patterson 7:54
it makes sense. That makes sense. And I guess for this $89 One time charge, he probably the consumer would save that if they’re buying a sofa, they’re probably in that 5% discount.

Marco Revah 8:07
Yeah, it’ll be, it’ll be fantastic. And not only will they be getting that 5% discount, they’ll also they’ll also be getting all the amenities that we’ll be offering within the store as free. So basically, we’ll have stations within the stores giving drinks and coffees. Coffee cost $7 now. We’re going to have a few little departments within the departments where we’ll be catering to members. And we’ll be servicing free coffees, free drinks, free appetizers, etc, we want to make it really feel, you know, beautiful within the store and feel the customers will welcome to sit down. And actually one member would be able to bring any family member with him. So we’re not going to attach it just to one person, we’ll be attaching it to the the to wherever he comes in with really very, I think it’ll be very warm and welcoming to the to the consumer.

Craig Patterson 9:06
And so this will be an experiential physical concept, I guess to drive people into look at the product. Obviously people can shop online for various things. There will be a Consumers Distributing website with product on it, but you’re also looking at creating this physical experience for consumers to I guess, experience the product and to engage with the retailer not just online.

Marco Revah 9:26
Yeah, you know, the I’ve done trade shows my whole life. So it would be like going to the electronics shows or the furniture shows where you have different suppliers we’ll have hopefully Samsung will have Yamaha will have will have a whole bunch of beautiful brands that will showcase their actual products. Hopefully we’ll do some some of the companies will hopefully do some type of trunk shows within our concept. That you know they’ll have the representatives there actually describing the product. It’ll We’ll be getting to know the product more, more details more feeling touched on the product before you purchase it – if that was an option and if that you if you wanted to do that. That’s what I think will be more than a little better to the consumer than just buying online and not getting all the details. Hopefully we’ll be able to offer that ‘touch and feel’ environment when you’re buying something either at the store or online. And that’s what we believe will be successful on both ends of what we’re doing here.

Craig Patterson 10:36
Right now. Let’s talk about Canada again. These are going to be large stores as you’ve conceptualized them. Would you see one large store per major city, like in Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Vancouver? Or do you have any would you see interesting physical retail expansion?

Marco Revah 10:54
I would think that I’d like to go into the major areas, I would like to go into Quebec, which would be Montreal. From there, I’d love to go into Toronto. And then Calgary-Edmonton would be really good. And going into Vancouver. I think that our secondary market would be the Saskatchewan, the Winnipeg, the Manitoba – I think we would want to not go there at the very, very beginning. But eventually branch out there if we see that our volume would be there – if there’s the population or that we have the demographics that would be strong enough to to take a big box store like that. But we’ll also you know, we’ll we’ll be supplying online. So hopefully if someone could make a trip to Calgary from Saskatoon. But at the very, very beginning, we want to hit the big cities.

Craig Patterson 11:49
Yeah. And looking for existing real estate. Do you think a purpose built building could happen? I mean, that’s going to be a bit more money, I think to to build, right?

Marco Revah 11:57
Yes, you know, Nordstrom cost like $65 million to build the Nordstrom stores. To build these type of big box stores, we’re talking about $50 million. I’ve heard some stores you can go up to I heard one in San Francisco went up to $150 million in cost to build out. So some developers are looking to redevelop some of their territory, the buildings into you know, residential into some landlords are looking to bring those stores within the shopping centers, really divide them within the mall, and make it like a pass through. But we were trying to offer a cure into trying to keep those stores alive, and hopefully generating enough volume to be beneficial for the landlord. For us to keep the building the way it is to modify it for our use. And then to hopefully branch out and build our own, eventually.

Craig Patterson 12:59
This is exciting stuff will will continue watching what’s going to happen with Consumers Distributing. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? You’ve got an extensive background in the retail industry you mentioned you’ve been kind of at it since you were 16. And you you’re over 60 now. Tell us a bit about how things got started with you and what you’re up to right now. Because you’ve got Lindbergh, tell us a bit more about all of this here.

Marco Revah 13:21
My life started in the retail industry where I was 16 years old. I moved into the United States and Luciano Benetton and then we created this concept called Play life. And at the time, it was Benetton sports system. They own Rollerblade, Nordica, etc. and we merge these things. And actually, I did Lululemon type of athletic wear before Lululemon even came out. I was probably ahead of my game – I was maybe 10 or 15 years ahead of them. So having said that, once I did Benetton – after that I turned around and I did some Charles David and the guest voice with the Maurice Marciano and Charlie Malka. I developed the Charles David Shoes and opened up some stores across Canada and also in the United States. And from there I, you know, I always look for what’s new. What’s next. I developed also a lot of stores for BCBG with Max Azria. And then I got into these good people up in Denmark, called the PWT group. And they’re the largest Scandinavian menswear group. They were 66% owned by Lego. And some financial banks and companies were really good. I’m actually still with them today. Basically, they’re been in business, I think, since 1910 from father to son. They have hundreds of stores all over all over the world and in Europe. And so from there, I continue to venture out because I always like to see what’s new and what’s next. I turned around and met the people from YoYoSo went to China met the family, actually lovely people, they turned around and expanded 1200 stores all over the world. I took a licensing and distribution agreement for the United States, we started to expand here in the United States for that. And having said that, at the same time on the sideline created CandleTime, which is a candle concept store. And like I said, you know, I’m always looking for what’s new, what’s next. And here I am today with the YoYoSo banners, the Lindbergh banner, the CandleTime banner, and Acutus Eyewear as well. I’ve teamed up with Mrs. Amal Yosuf, which is a very, very fine doctor. Within she’s in the Vegas market. I have many stores in Vegas. So that’s where I met her. And when I started Acutus, I worked with her as a matter of fact, we opened the first acritas eyewear over here at American Dream today, which is a 3000 footer. This is where I’m talking to you from New York City. And we opened up above these four banners here at American dream with the with the Ghermezians. And there’s we’re looking to, we’re looking to expand also within the United States. All those brands, and I ventured out into the Windwood area down into Miami. YoYoSo, we’ll open up a 15,000 footer with introducing the YoYoSo Cafe, which also hasn’t done in any of its stores. But because the the footprint was almost 12,000 feet, that there was room for 2000 foot cafe that we’re going to launch out at the same time. So again, I don’t know when I’ll stop, but I’m always looking for what’s new, what’s next, I’m always looking to add something.

Marco Revah 18:19
I haven’t stayed in only one industry, which is the menswear, where I’ve actually started in. So I’m a Sagittarius. So I don’t know I get I get bored real fast. And I looking for what’s new. And what’s next. And like I said, here I am today. I think my my latest one is what we’re talking about today, Consumers Distributing. And that’s what I hope will will be the billion dollar mark for me. Because I’m thinking that those stores will average between $2-300 million in sales. I won’t hit the the IKEA border where they’re doing three 400 million in sales. I don’t think I’ll be at the Walmart level who are was doing $590 million this year, or Target is doing $190 billion. But I think the Walmart is at $590 billion, Target is at $190 billion. I’m hoping to do just a few and I’m hoping that this is the concept where I’ll be over the billion dollar mark in no time. I’m thinking four department stores and a few memberships. I should be at the billion dollar mark. And then from there, I hope to go on an IPO and expand the brand aggressively. And I have the people for that, my son also does mergers and acquisitions with his law firm. And that’s where I’m hopefully headed.

Craig Patterson 19:47
This is a very exciting stuff. We’ll be following up a bit more of the story here for sure as things progressed. So thank you so much for joining us today. This is Marco Revah. He’s an entrepreneur and retail veteran who’s reviving Consumers Distributing here in Canada and the United States. Thank you so much for joining us here, Marco.

Marco Revah 20:06
Thank you very much. It was wonderful talking to you.

Craig Patterson 20:09
Thank you so much. Thank you so much, everyone. Whether or not you’re watching this today, or listening to this or one of our podcast channels. This is Retail Insider – The Video Interview series. I’m your host, Craig Patterson. I’m the founder and publisher and CEO of Retail Insider Media. Thank you so much. Again, be sure to subscribe and whatever platform you’re on here or want to be on take care and bye for now.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Very interesting way to reintroduce a well known brand (Consumers Distributing)! Looking forward to this new Montreal location. I would suggest that a current version of the original logo would help brand recognition tremendously, instead of the kinda generic logo that these images show.

    The big question is… Instant gratification was a big part of what made Consumers Distributing fun back in the day. Maybe consider offering some popular products in stock (not the whole catalog obviously).

    • Hi, Hopefully Montreal is on the map, depends on Location , we have agents looking for space, as we speak
      Meanwhile we will also have our Market place shop on line on the site up and running by Jan 2024, for the new year
      love Montreal , I live in Boca raton Now..i moved out 32 years ago

      maybe will have promotional products in stock, but mostly shipped and delivered to clients ..

      • Very nice! I truly hope you have rights to the french version of Consumers Distributing as well. In Quebec, you are known as Distribution aux Consommateurs, so it’s critical that you use that name again out here.

        Consumers Distributing is not a known name out here… Distribution aux Consommateurs is just as well remembered as Zellers however!

  2. I remember hearing in the news that Consumers Distributing was making a come back about 10 or so years ago? Nothing ever come of that. Is this return connected in anyway with that failed return? I was excited for the return then got bummed out it never happened and no explanation as to why. I really hope this time it works, I like the sounds of this concept.

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Anatomy of a Leader: Ian Rosen, President and COO of Harry Rosen

Rosen discusses his life up to becoming head of the luxury menswear retailer, and discusses what's been happening with the family as new leadership emerges.

Mid-Market Retailers in Canada Navigating Challenges and Opportunities as Consumers Shift [Op-Ed]

Jared Gordon discusses challenges facing mid-market retail, such as declining consumer interest and competition from discount and luxury sectors. Mid-market retailers need to adapt to survive he says.