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Entrepreneur Doug Putman Discusses His Newest Venture, T.Kettle, Opening in Former David’s Tea Storefronts: Interview

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Canadian entrepreneur Doug Putman has a history of resurrecting struggling retail concepts with new ideas and new initiatives, including T.Kettle.

He is best known for converting HMV music stores to Sunrise Records a few years ago.

CANADIAN ENTREPRENEUR DOUG PUTMAN CONVERTS DAVIDSTEA LOCATIONS INTO T.KETTLE

Now, he has another project in the retail space as Doug Putman has taken 45 shuttered DAVIDsTea locations and transformed them into a new brand T.Kettle with the goal to expand the concept further in Canada.

Doug Putman headshot
DOUG PUTMAN HEADSHOT

“I think in any tough times – and this is certainly one of them – there’s opportunities that present themselves. Back four or five years ago, Sunrise Records presented an opportunity for us when HMV left the market and I think this is an exact example of that where it’s in an industry I really like, which is tea. I think people who are into tea are very passionate about it and it’s part of their ritual and routine,” said Putman.

“So obviously when DAVIDs decided to leave the market to a large extent – they have a few stores left – it just signalled to us that this could be one of those opportunities worth looking into. The further we looked into it the more we liked the business model, the more we liked the business itself. Very quickly it was just a check mark for us to say okay we’ve got to do this.”

T.Kettle stores will feature certified vegan, kosher, organic blends, with all products ethically sourced and sustainable.

“The store is going to look a little different. Obviously a different name but our products are different. There’s many different kinds of Earl Grey tea as an example and there’s different qualities. So we feel that we offer the best quality of loose leaf tea in the market. We’re really appealing to people who really want to taste and have the best quality tea out there.”

CANADIAN TEA MARKET IS GROWING

Putman said the tea market in Canada has been growing for years and continues to grow.

“Of course, it’s nowhere near the size of coffee but that’s okay. Businesses can be different sizes and they can grow. And so we just really like tea. We like the health benefits of tea. We like the enjoyment of drinking tea. I mean it is similar to listening to vinyl in our other business. There’s an experience there with it so we really enjoy that. We think there’s something great about it. Although it’s ‘niche’ it’s still a very big business. We’re at 45 stores right now but every day we’re signing more stores. I still believe in Canada we can get up to 100 stores in the next six months.”

T.Kettle stores will be in malls in provinces across Canada, with six US stores in California, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

“We always believed there would be a return to the purity and authenticity of music on vinyl and the record shop experience, and we were right, said Putman. “We believe that loose-leaf tea is poised for a similar comeback, and we’re merging our expertise in retail operations with our passion for tea to bring T. Kettle to cities across Canada and the US.”

When asked what lifts his optimism in these challenging times and an economic downturn caused by COVID, Putman replied:

“We understand retail well. We now own retail in three different countries and I think if you can get partnership from your suppliers, your landlords, you can be fiscally responsible, you can listen to your customers and really provide something that they actually want and enjoy, I think you’re going to be successful.

“Is COVID the best time for us to be doing this? No, but I think without it we wouldn’t have been presented with this opportunity and for us we think about everything longer term. At some point, this will be behind us. We will get back to some form of normal and so again a long-term thing where the opportunity just happened to present itself today.

“I always believe you’re presented with lots of opportunities in life. Everyone is. Some you take. Some you don’t. This is one we just felt was too good to pass up.”

Will T.Kettle be Putman’s last retail resurrection?

“I hope not. From my end, we’re looking to acquire more businesses. It could be retail, it could not be retail. Of course, we’d always like to get someone before there’s a bankruptcy. We always like talking to retailers who are struggling right now and try and find a solution for them to help them through it, however if that’s not the case we’re always good to resurrect as well. I hope it’s not our last. I hope we do a few more.

“Personally I just love it. I love retail. I think it’s a great industry. I hope to stick with it.”

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