Store owners being forced out

“Basically they’re going to buy our inventory back from us at what price they deem is fair and with no additional financial compensation. They feel the contract is over, thanks, goodbye, we don’t need you anymore,’’ he said.

Orillia Packet & Times
December 3, 2001

Store owners being forced out
Mike Dodd

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For more years than they’d care to admit, Orillians Don and Bette Boyd have worked hard to build a strong clientele and make their Grand and Toy outlet something to be proud of in the Sunshine City.

Now they’re fighting hard with every ounce of energy to prevent their livelihood from being snatched right out from underneath them.

The Boyds are part of a group of 21 Grand and Toy licensees from across Ontario who are currently waging a multi-million dollar legal battle against the Grand and Toy company in the hopes of maintaining control of their franchises. Sitting in a downstairs office in their Mississaga Street store Saturday afternoon, the couple discussed their on-going legal fight during an interview with The Packet.

“We’ve worked hard to build the business and build the loyalty and basically they’re just attacking all the work that we’ve put into it as our own business,’’ said Bette Boyd.

Currently the Orillia store has 10 employees, including Boyd, his wife and daughter Brittany and they are unsure of what the future will hold for themselves and the other seven staff members once next June rolls around.

Since the word began circulating of their struggle to hold onto their business, Don Boyd has received major encouragement and support from various downtown merchants.

“It makes you feel good to have their support,’’ he said.

Earlier this summer while attending a meeting with Grand and Toy corporate executives and franchise licensees in Minet, Ont. the Boyds first learned of company plans to terminate existing contracts. “Usually on the last day of the gathering we have a meeting with the licensees and the president and vice-president of the company,’’ said Don Boyd. What was said next totally floored Boyd and his wife.

“That’s when they sprung it on us (that they were terminating the contracts),’’ he added. “The contracts have always been renewed, extended or new contracts put forward. This time around they decided it was time to finish the program and they were going to take them (the franchises) all back.’’ According to Boyd, increasing profit margins is the primary reason behind the move by the company’s head office to take control of the stores.

“That’s the bottom line,’’ said Don Boyd.

The owner-operators of the 23 affected Ontario franchise stores, including Boyd’s, are seeking $24 million in damages for various items, plus $5 million in punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages. “We think a lot of what’s happening has a lot to do with the Arthur Wishart (Franchise Disclosure) Act,’’ said Don Boyd.

Under the act, franchisees like Boyd would have greater say in the operation of their businesses.

Sault Ste. Marie MPP Tony Martin has introduced a bill to amend the Arthur Wishart Act. With the enactment of Martin’s bill to amend the current act, a franchiser could no longer refuse renewal of a franchise agreement without six months written notice, fair compensation and the right of the franchisee to purchase a similar business in the same location. This bill would also set out a fair process for mediation if the two parties cannot come to their own mutual agreement.

Grand and Toy currently operates stores across Ontario and besides Orillia there are also outlets in cities including Toronto, Oshawa, Pickering, Hamilton, Kingston, Ottawa and Barrie.

Over the past few months, the affected franchise owners in the various communities have been mounting a major media campaign to draw attention to their attempt to protect the investment they’ve made in the communities where they live.

With deep roots in Orillia, Boyd wants to continue working in the city he calls home. Boyd has been selling office supplies on Orillia’s main street for 23 years and his connection to downtown businesses goes back over three decades.

“I have a lot of ties to this community and a lot of people know me and they’ve certainly supported us over the years,’’ he said.

For that reason he wants to maintain his relationship with Grand and Toy.

“We were in this for the long term. When we took over this store in 1993 I was the store manager at the time. Basically at that time they said to us that they were going to do the franchising if someone was in a store that they wanted to franchise, they were either transferred to another store, if that person didn’t want to take the store,’’ said Don Boyd.

Facing possible unemployment at the time, the Boyds decided to make a major personal investment.
“We decided at the time that it was a good move for us. “When we did take over the store, it was done in such a way that it was forced upon us. Either we took it or I didn’t have a job. It wasn’t really something we went after them for. They came after us and said ‘If you want this store you have to do this or go look for another job,’ ’’ said Boyd.

Unfortunately, he realizes the current legal action against Grand and Toy will continue long after the current contract expires next June and it could be three to five years before the case works its way through the Ontario court system.

“The biggest thing is they’re not offering us any kind of financial compensation,’’ said Bette Boyd. Don Boyd said it’s very cut and dry.

“Basically they’re going to buy our inventory back from us at what price they deem is fair and with no additional financial compensation. They feel the contract is over, thanks, goodbye, we don’t need you anymore,’’ he said.


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Risks: Converted managers into franchisees, Expropriations without compensation, Refusal to renew contract, Tony Martin, Arthur Wishart Act (Franchise Disclosure), 2000, Canada, Bad faith and unfair dealings, Renting a business, Canada, 20011203 Store owners

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