Canadian Gift Basket Retailer ‘Baskits’ Sees Explosive Growth with Multiple Sales Channels: Interview

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Baskits, the online retailer of gift baskets, has been in business since 1985 but in 2014 it was acquired by entrepreneur Robin Kovitz who has spearheaded explosive growth for the company in recent years. 

For two years in a row, it has been listed on the Globe and Mail’s ranking of Canada’s Top Growing Companies. And Kovitz, the company’s President and CEO, was a finalist for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2021.

“We’re Canada’s leading gift delivery service company,” she said. “We’re an omnichannel retailer so we operate through bricks and mortar stores, through e-commerce stores, and a call centre. In a nutshell, we design, manufacture and ship /deliver gifts all across Canada and the US on behalf of customers from all around the world.

St. Clair Baskits Location (Image: Baskits)

“One unique aspect of our business is we have both B2B and B2C parts of our business. I would say it’s pretty evenly split. We service both markets.

“We’ve taken a bit of a different approach to stores. Because my background is in investing, I see the stores a little bit differently than a traditional retailer would. We only have three locations and they’re very, very small. They’re micro stores, 200 square feet. And the purpose of the store is more as a delivery pickup point, as a showroom and a place for people to kind of confirm quality. But the goal is to sell not through the stores.”

Three locations are in Toronto.

Kovitz grew up in Calgary with a family business – Centennial Foods which was the largest privately-held meat manufacturing and distribution company in Canada with three plants in the city. She grew up evenings and weekends with her father and grandfather learning the business. After she graduated from high school, she went to Queen’s University for a Bachelor of Commerce. Kovitz then spent a few years in investment banking, advising people on buying and selling companies.

What followed was getting a Master’s from the Harvard Business School which was a dream come true for her. While she was there, she met many men in private equity. 

President & CEO Robin Kovitz (Image: Baskits)
St. Clair Baskits Location (Image: Baskits)

“I just thought private equity was the cat’s meow. The concept of raising money, buying a business, operating it and selling it. I just fell in love with this idea,” she said. “I came back to Canada because my husband’s a lawyer here. I was determined to work in private equity and I did that for a few years. Then I turned the ripe old age of 30, this was 11 years ago, and like many women started thinking of having a family. I looked over my career path and I thought yikes how am I going to have a kid, breastfeed, be accessible from home, do all these things, and also still do what made me successful, which is being at my desk 17 hours a day.

“I took a step back and thought about my strengths and skills and my family and husband encouraged me to buy a small business and see what I could do with it. I know I’m a workaholic but at least I knew I would have more flexibility over my schedule.”

That launched her on a path to study small businesses, trying to find one to acquire. She ‘lucked’ upon Baskits. At first she dismissed it. She didn’t think of it as a business for her. But over time she ended up acquiring the business.

TD Centre (Image: Baskits)
Image: Baskits

“I do believe in fate and now I see it like my third child,” said Kovitz. “It’s a lot of fun.

“When I bought the business it had a few million in sales in 2014 and we’ve grown more than 7x since I acquired it.”

Kovitz said it has been a fun business to be in, building a world-class team – the success behind the operation.

“I get calls all the time. I’m not interested in selling it. I want to build. I want to build something greater than myself and I think giving gifts is a really fun and interesting space to be in.

“I think we’ve kind of made the gift basket have a bit of a comeback – a resurgence – with the merger of that with e-commerce. The gift basket from the 80s is back again and Baskits is at the core of that.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
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 is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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