Boomerang Kids Expands Into Quebec

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Amanda and Benoit Lauzon are the husband and wife team that have opened the first Boomerang Kids in Quebec, in Gatineau. At 4,400 square feet, the new store is the largest in the growing chain of children's resale stores.

For most couples, having four children under five years old would be workload enough. That's clearly not the case for Amanda and Benoit Lauzon, who have just opened a Gatineau franchise of Boomerang Kids, the popular Ottawa-based chain of consignment stores known for low-priced, high-quality children's, baby and maternity clothing and items.

The new store at 25 Chemin de la Savane is Boomerang's first location in Quebec where the business is known as Boutique Boomerang Kids.

At 4,400 square feet, it's Boomerang's largest site so far and the couple's second store "" they took over the Orleans franchise earlier this year. They plan to open a third store next year in Gatineau.

"We"d been looking to invest in a business, but couldn"t find anything we liked," says Amanda.

Like her husband, she's on parental leave from the federal government following the birth of the couple's youngest child several months ago. "We heard Boomerang Kids was looking for franchisees. I"d been a consigner since our first-born and with four kids, the business seemed quite relevant. It's just snowballed." With children's winter wear and Christmas toys among the most popular items right now, her reference to snow is apt. Snowballing also describes the entire Boomerang chain, which has mushroomed from two Ottawa stores on Bank Street and Richmond Road in 2007 to the current seven, including a recently opened site in Vaughan, Ont. Three more Quebec stores are planned for 2014, including the second Gatineau location.

The business (boomerangkids.com) is also expanding its new online shopping option, currently available for three of its stores, to more locations. Online purchases can be shipped to the customer or picked up at the store.

And there are plenty of great deals, says Benoit. "You can get almost-new clothing at half the regular price or less. We carry good brands, like Gap and Mexx. A lot of the clothing for children up to two has only been worn a few times because they grow so fast." For sellers, it's a chance to recoup some of the money they spent buying new. That money can be taken as cash or used toward buying other items.

"It's win-win," says Benoit.

Along with clothing and toys, the chain sells strollers, high chairs and other baby gear. Pack "N Play travelling cribs ($39 to $49 at Boomerang Kids compared to up to $100 new) are particularly popular. About 25 per cent of what the store sells is new and priced at roughly what you"d pay at any retailer. "We"re the first business in Canada that combines consignment and chain and online that I know of," says Heather Meek. She and her business partner, Krista Thompson, bought the business, established in the mid-1990s, as a two-store operation in 2007. They then turned those two stores into franchise operations and then went on the expansion spree that's made Boomerang Kids practically a household name among Ottawa-area parents of young children.

They decided to open in Quebec when they realized how many people were crossing the river to shop their Ottawa stores, says Meek. "We kept hearing, "Come to Gatineau."" No matter which side of the river you shop, every Boomerang Kids item has been checked before it is accepted for resell. Clothing is examined from top to bottom for rips and stains. If it's a mechanical toy or game, it's rejected unless it works properly (all toys and games are sold with batteries).

Items are also compared against product recall lists, Meek says.

If a customer is unhappy with a product, it can be returned for a refund or credit.

And forget the old stigma attached to second-hand goods. People view them as an environmentally, not to mention financially, conscious way to shop.

It seems to pay off for everyone, including consigners, who get 40 per cent of the selling price for clothing, toys and books and 50 per cent for gear, she says.

The company also buys items outright from sellers and donates many products to charity.

All this keeps the Lauzons hopping. Although Benoit will be returning to his government job in the new year, Amanda will likely take an extended, unpaid leave. One way or the other, it's been great for family life, she says.

"The stores don"t open till 9:30, so we can see the kids off to school and we"re normally home by 5. On the weekends, we can focus on the kids and if we have to pop into the store we just take them with us."

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