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Interview: Reitmans President Discusses Diversity Campaign & Company’s Restructuring Post-Filing

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Canadian mega retailer Reitmans, which continues to restructure its business under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, has launched a new ‘Wear Your Support’ campaign to celebrate diversity.

WEAR YOUR SUPPORT’ CAMPAIGN CELEBRATES CANADIAN WOMEN PROMOTING CHANGE WITHIN COMMUNITIES

The campaign, in collaboration with creative agency Cossette, focuses on seven Canadian women promoting profound change within their communities. Their individual stories underscore unifying threads of obstacle and grit, perseverance and triumph.

JACKIE TARDIF

“The campaign aims to empower women through these seven authentic ambassadors who speak to the Reitmans’ customer’s life and strive to build a better society for all. The goal of ‘Wear Your Support’ is to help women foster the confidence needed for self-acceptance, a powerful tool for fighting for one’s beliefs,” said Jackie Tardif, President of Reitmans, which recently announced it has obtained a revolving credit facility of up to $60 million from the Bank of Montreal. It will be used to fund the company’s operations as it reorganizes under the CCAA process and for other specific purposes.

As of early August, there were 255 Reitmans stores in Canada, 105 Penningtons and 80 RW&CO. The company is closing all 77 Addition Elle stores and all 54 Thyme Maternity stores. While maintaining its brick and mortar stores across the country for Reitmans, Penningtons, and RW&CO., it will have to optimize its physical presence.

The company said it will close a limited number of Reitmans, Penningtons, and RW&CO. stores in Canada in the coming weeks and months. It is too early to confirm how many locations will close as the company is still in the restructuring process.

While it continues in its restructuring process, the ‘Wear Your Support’ campaign is intended to propel people towards a deepened shared experience of community, empowerment, and ultimately, true acceptance.

It also highlights Reitmans’ core values: inclusivity, diversity, and authenticity.

“It’s always been at the centre of everything we do,” said Tardif.

The campaign showcases women who celebrate body, ethnic, and sexual orientation diversity. The message: when women love themselves and support each other, they can accomplish anything.

Among the personalities chosen are coach and athlete Louise Green, known for her movement Big Fit Girl; novelist and two-time Giller-Prize-winner Esi Edugyan; Cowichan Tribe entrepreneur Arianna Lauren; singer and vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ communities Jully Black; Quebec pop singer Ariane Moffatt; Paralympic snowboarder Michelle Salt and the first Canadian drag queen to participate in RuPaul’s Drag Race,”Queen of the North”, Brooke Lynn Hytes.

By launching its 2020 diversity campaign, Reitmans is just going deeper and further into its core values, said Tardif.

The female ambassadors are change makers who have overcome obstacles and have inspiring stories to share

“I think we have five million women shopping with us every year. We have a strong voice,” said Tardif, adding that Reitmans can amplify those voices to help and create a better world.

Each ambassador has designed a T-shirt that speaks to her voice, values and singular vision of Diversity; they are available in stores and online and will retail for $29.90. Reitmans is giving back $10,000 to each charity chosen by the seven ambassadors.

Recently as part of its restructuring, Reitmans announced that it was streamlining its senior leadership team by abolishing the position of President, RW&CO., held by Lora Tisi. Michael Strachan assumed the position of President of the Penningtons and RW&CO brands.

The company started the restructuring process in May. In early June, it announced the three go-forward brands for the company. It also started negotiations and discussions with landlords.

“We are quite advanced right now into our process and we’re very confident we’re making the right decisions,” said Tardif.

“We have sufficient cash available for the operation of our business and we’ll only be using the credit facility if and when it’s needed as we continue our restructuring through the CCAA process. It’s always good to have. We don’t know the future. It’s always a lot of unknowns right now. It’s a good security.”

With retail stores opening up now through the COVID-19 pandemic, Tardif said consumers remain conservative but activity is better than she anticipated. There continues to be a shift as well to online shopping.

“Business is gradually coming back to normal,” she said.

On July 30, the company released its financial results for its fiscal first quarter, the 13 weeks ending May 2, and it reported sales of $104.7 million, which was down from $185.2 million from a year ago.

It said the $80.5 million decrease was primarily due to the impact from temporary store closures due to COVID-19.

Gross profit for the first quarter decreased $70.8 million or 69.5 percent, to $31 million as compared with $101.8 million last year. Gross profit as a percentage of sales decreased to 29.6 percent from 55 percent.

“The decrease both in gross profit and as a percentage of sales is primarily attributable to an $18.3 million increase in the Company’s inventory reserves due to the announced closures of the Thyme Maternity and Addition Elle banners, the impact of inventory build up for the spring season during the temporary store closures which will require higher markdowns and higher promotional activity on e-commerce sales during COVID-19,” it said in a news release.

Net loss for the first quarter was $74.7 million ($1.53 basic and diluted loss per share) as compared with a net loss of $12.6 million ($0.20 basic and diluted loss per share) last year.

“The increase in net loss of $62.1 million is primarily attributable to the decrease in gross profit and an increase in income tax expense, partially offset by an increase in net finance income largely coming from a net unrealized gain on outstanding foreign exchange contracts that were no longer being designated as cash flow hedges,” it said.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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