Big Box Bullies

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What’s the best way to handle bullies … walk away! And that’s exactly what Tail Wags Helmet Covers did when Canadian Tire tried to bully us. I should probably explain: In January 2012, on the CBC Dragons’ Den, I mentioned Tail Wags will be available in Canadian Tire stores in Fall 2012. Although the paperwork still had to be finalized, I had reached an agreed upon price with the Canadian Tire buyers. So it came as a surprise when the buyers tried to drastically alter the price point. I explained it was impossible to produce a made in Canada product for the amount they suggested. Furthermore, Canadian Tire was trying to back down on the number of units they were ordering and they even had the gull to ask me if I was willing to buy back unsold product. Those of you who have dealt with big box stores before are probably nodding your heads knowingly. I had been warned in advance that dealing with big box stores is very different than boutique wholesale accounts. But it still came as a shock. Canadian Tire was acting like a two year old in the sand box that has a temper tantrum when it doesn’t get its way. Speaking with other women entrepreneurs has been an eye opener. One friend told me she was meeting with a large US big box retailer who told her directly if she didn’t meet their price point, they were going to simply “knock off” her product. Despite knowing she has copyright on all of her designs, the big box stores seem to think they can act above the law because a small business owner won’t have the legal funds to engage in a battle with them. The above experience has hardened my resolve to shop in boutique stores. Although the end product may cost a bit more, I know the manufacturers haven’t been bullied to accept a price point that is unreasonable. Am I being naïve? Should I simply give up the fight to maintain a quality, made in Canada product instead of producing a less expensive product overseas? Before you answer that question, please watch the following (it's hilarious): watch?v=pKv6RcXa2UI

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  • I had the same reaction when I heard a big box tell another entrepreneur they wouldn’t think twice about stealing & copying her product. It’s no wonder the only new stores opening up are the big ones who have deep pockets and are often willing to fight dirty. Some days I feel so frustrated but I am committed to Canadian Made & quality products … I promise!

    Karyn Climans on
  • Wow…just Wow !!

    Like you Karyn, I’ve heard the stories about small business/manufacturers being squeezed on their production costs when trying to place product in the Big Box stores – to read that they threaten to rip off her design/idea, and all the sweat equity she’s put into building her business just makes me fume.

    That Canadian Tire would ask you to buy back unsold product is ridiculous – would they ask the same of Debbie Travis !

    Please don’t give up the fight. Consumers need to be educated and understand the value in buying a quality item that will last, versus buying a cheap product, which they have to go out and replace in 6 months time.

    Alison on
  • Good for you, Karyn for standing your ground! U R Canadian 100%

    Kathryn Shanley on
  • Dear Andrea: I totally understand where you’re coming from. We need to make the message clearer for consumers. If they want North American jobs, they need to buy North American goods. When they purchase locally made goods, they are supporting more than one business (because of the accounting, marketing etc firms that are also supported). There’s an excellent video that makes the point abundantly clear: Until consumers start demanding more locally made products, the big box stores will keep filling their shelves with the stuff made overseas.

    Karyn Climans on
  • I am exactly where you are. The big boxes want Scabs but they want them at a price point that can only be achieved in China.

    One of the most appealing facts about Scabs is that they are Canadian made. People say that is important but as soon as I discuss price with the retailers, I am told I must go to China!

    If consumers would pay $3.50 for a Scab instead of $2.99, I could keep the whole operation here in Canada (and create Canadian Jobs!!!) but I am being told this is not what will sell and that $2.99 is a MUST. The option is being knocked off by the big boxes and cut out of a product that I INVENTED!

    If you think I am exaggerating, look at Loblaws. They blatantly knock off the products that they DO carry. (Lindt, Ferrero as an example.) Now there is a slap in the face!

    Please let me know what your readers think? Are we naive in this argument. I’d like to know, because I am tired of fighting alone!

    I appreciate Kimberly’s comment about respect but in reality, I have spent 2 years developing this product at my own personal expense and it is about money. Why should Big Box make MILLIONS off my idea and not me. Why am I left to fight alone. CONSUMERS need to speak up!


    Andrea Winarski on

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