Retail veteran Mal Coven says that he is launching his BIWAY $10 STORE concept in August (now November) of this year in a 15,000-square-foot retail space in Toronto. The store will be twice the size of a previously announced location that was supposed to open in the summer of 2019. Mr. Coven was instrumental in growing the once prominent BIWAY chain of stores that still have name recognition amongst many Canadians.
The new BIWAY $10 STORE will be located in a newly built commercial complex at the southwest corner of Orfus Road and Dufflaw Road — a soon-to-open Roots ‘Last Chance’ outlet store will be located next to it. The immediate area is known for its value-priced and outlet stores as well as office and warehouse facilities for many Canadian brands. Mr. Coven said that he has been building stock for his first store, and that he plans to open multiple locations in years to come as the retailer takes off.
As part of the concept, the new BIWAY $10 STORE will utilize the guiding principals that “will be no different than the original Biway stores”. That includes choosing products that consumers are seeking while presenting them in a “non-confusing manner” with a depth of product to make visiting a store compelling. Quality will be an important factor to the assortment — the stock will include many well-known brands, according to Mr. Coven, which will act as a draw for shoppers seeking value-priced quality merchandise. Pricing will be competitive and will be lower than almost all competitors, which will provide a significant competitive edge as Canadian consumers seek out bargains.
Stores will be interactive and will include such things as a monthly reading by a parent or author from one of BIWAY $10 STORE’s expansive offering of children’s books. According to a company strategy document, the launch of the new store concept will be more dynamic than the original Biway chain which shuttered in 2001. The new chain will feature “better quality, better brands and better layout” which will “make shopping a more enjoyable and comfortable experience for the whole family”.
As per the name, the store 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. Regular retail prices for many items would be considerably higher he said.
Mr. Coven explained how he and his business partners are working with key suppliers to obtain stock for the new chain. While many brands will be recognizable to consumers, he didn’t want us to name them. Mr. Coven did say that brands would include well-known children’s brands, world-famous men’s and women’s apparel brands, along with a world-renowned Italian import company known for its confectionary. The food selection will include a large assortment of Aurora Kosher products that will sell $10 for 10 items, in many instances.
The product mix in the stores will be diverse, and interestingly a substantial assortment of children’s wear will be a key attraction to the new store concept. About 35% of the BIWAY $10 STORE merchandise will be children’s wear (newborn through to size 14) from name brands. Home goods, including the likes of linen, bedding, bath, sheets, pillow cases, bath towels, tea towels and such will make up about 10% of the initial stock. Ladies wear will make up about 15% of the assortment and will include name-brand underwear, t-shirts, fleece, stretch wear, leg wear, and other categories. About 10% of produce will be for men and will include branded underwear, socks, t-shirts, fleece, headwear, and other items. About 10% of merchandise will fall under the food, health, and beauty categories and he said that his company has partnered with a world-renowned kosher food brand.
Merchandise will be showcased on the perimeter walls of the store as well as on tables or racks for hanging merchandise throughout the space. As with the former Biway chain, the new store concept will feature display tables that will have “one idea and one price line to make shopping and decision making easier. The same will be true for the hanging merchandise on the racks” with “all of the sizes and classifications being well identified”.
Stores themselves will have wider than usual aisle space to make for a more comfortable experience, while allowing for shopping carts and deliveries to be made more easily. Additional cashiers will be available to “shorten the wait time when checking out” and the one-price strategy is also expected to “speed up the process”.
To make the chain successful, Mr. Coven said that the company is currently training key people to be used as buyers for the BIWAY $10 STORE concept and that key employees would be offered equity in the corporation.
The chain could be very successful. Given research conducted by Mr. Coven and his business associates, the Biway name is still recognizable with many consumers. Based on the lingering reputation alone, 91% of those interviewed said that they wold be interested in visiting the new concept store. Survey answers indicated considerable interest from both men and women in all regions.
Mr. Coven sees the potential to open many BIWAY $10 STORE locations throughout Canada in the years to come, though the retailer will first test the concept and perfect it before expanding outwards. Locations will span between 8,000 square feet to in excess of 11,000 square feet and will be located in strip centres, power centres and shopping malls.
As the founder of the new BIWAY $10 STORE chain, Mr. Coven will have the title of CEO and Merchandise Manager. Barry Weinberg will become Senior Vice Present — Mr. Weinberg has an expansive history in retailing and was the original licensee for Italian women’s luxury brand Max Mara in North America.
The former Biway chain had an overall strong brand perception on the part of consumers. According to a Goldfarb Associates survey, 96% of people in Ontario were aware of the Biway name. Of those old enough, 52% said that they shopped at Biway regularly and 32% shopped occasionally. Ninety percent of respondents said that Biway sold good quality merchandise and 95% said that the chain provided good value. The survey also found that “interest is high even among those who have never shopped there personally”, coming in at 80% of respondents.
Mr. Coven has more than 60 years of retail experience and recently turned 91. He says that he has a lot of energy left and that he plans to make the new BIWAY $10 STORE concept successful. He was one of the leaders in building the discount Biway store chain, which had about 250 stores across the country over 28 years. After selling the company in the late 1990’s, the Biway chain shuttered in 2001.
He wrote a book about that experience – How I Succeeded in Retirement and the Biway Story.
Mr. Coven, who resides in midtown Toronto, was born in Boston and grew up in the area. After graduating from university, he worked for US department store Filenes for over a decade. After a trip to Canada in 1956, he struck a business partnership that saw him become a partner in a discount store chain. In 1962 he relocated to Toronto to lead the 1,600-square-foot Biway store in Toronto’s west end and in the 1970’s spearheaded a significant expansion to create the Biway chain of stores. At its peak, Biway was the fifth largest seller of apparel in Canada. Conglomerate Dylex acquired a 50% stake in Biway in the late 1970’s and Mr. Coven left the company in 1990. A US dollar chain subsequently acquired Biway prior to its closure in 2001.
We’ll update this story when the first BIWAY $10 STORE opens in Toronto in August.