April 25, 2014 3:41 pm

Does Grand & Toy moving online signal the end of brick-and-mortar model?

Grand & Toy will be closing all 19 of its retail locations.

Gage Fletcher / Global News

Update (Mon. April 28): A spokesperson for OfficeMax told Global News the decision to close Grand & Toy retail stores was made independently of the company’s retail business in the U.S.

“The decision to close Grand & Toy retail stores was made independent of the evaluation of our retail footprint in the U.S. No announcements have been made about either our small or traditional format OfficeMax retail stores in the U.S.,” said a spokesperson.

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TORONTO – One of Canada’s longest standing brick-and-mortar chains has officially cut ties with the traditional in-store customer experience in favour of online shopping.

OfficeMax Grand & Toy announced Friday that it will close all of its remaining 19 stores across Canada in the coming months, but will continue selling merchandise through its website.

READ MORE: Grand & Toy to shut down its 19 retail stores, 160 staff affected

The company, which has been a staple in the Canadian office supply business for over 130 years, said it has experienced “tremendous growth” in its online channel over the past several years.

“We are concentrating our efforts on ways to better serve our customers in response to their changing business needs,” said general manager Simon Finch.

“Our customers overwhelmingly prefer an online experience. It offers more products, a constantly growing selection, and convenient door-to-door delivery.”

John-Kurt Pliniussen, marketing expert and professor at Queen’s University School of Business, said the move makes sense for the Toronto-based company – but noted it does not signal the end of the brick-and-mortar model.

“There will always be a place for the experience of shopping, but it has to be specialized. There has to be niche products, along with niche experiences,” Pliniussen told Global News.

“While some brick and mortar stores are closing, others have never been more successful.”

READ MORE: Do slower sales in-store signal a shift to online-only retailers?

In 2011 Grand & Toy switched its focus to the digital age, converting many locations to “small business centres” that included work stations, photocopying services and printing services.

That model is still widely used in office supply chains across North America.

In fact, Pliniussen said on a recent trip to Florida he visited one of the busiest OfficeMax locations he had ever seen, one that catered to small business owners.

“Whoever is making these policy decisions as to which stores stay open and which close should likely be done on a case by case basis, based on how much of a demand there is for the variety of services,” he said.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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