As retailer Indigo heads toward privatization, a look at its history

As retailer Indigo heads toward privatization, a look at its history
An Indigo bookstore sign in shown on a storefront in Ottawa on Tuesday March 30, 2021.

Shareholders of Indigo Books and Music Inc. voted on Monday to approve a deal that will take the retailer private. Here is a look back at some of the memorable moments from its history.

1996: Heather Reisman, a Montreal native who co-founded Paradigm Consulting and had a brief stint at beverage company Cott Corp., launches Indigo after a failed effort to bring American-based Borders Group to Canada. The Borders deal failed to secure federal regulatory approval, setting the stage for Reisman to create Indigo.

1997: The first Indigo opens in Burlington, Ont.

February 2001: Trilogy Retail Enterprises L.P., which is owned by Reisman and her spouse, Onex founder Gerald Schwartz, pay $121 million to take over Chapters Inc, an Indigo rival. Chapters was started by Lawrence Stevenson in 1994, when he bought out and merged bookstores Coles and SmithBooks.

April 6, 2001: The Competition Bureau approves a Chapters and Indigo merger, but says the companies must sell 13 superstores, 10 mall locations and Chapters store banners Classic and SmithBooks.

Aug. 14, 2001: After a prolonged takeover battle, Indigo and Chapters merge under the Indigo Books & Music Inc. name.

2003: Indigo starts selling music online and offers 24-hour shipping.

2004: Indigo launches the Love of Reading Fund, a program meant to boost reading and learning opportunities for Canadian students. It is later renamed the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation.

2006: Indigo starts stocking toys and opens its first in-store toy departments at its Yorkdale and Bayview Village locations in Toronto.

Dec. 15, 2009: Indigo spins off Shortcovers, its digital reading division, to form Kobo Inc. with $16 million in funding from Indigo, which will have a 58 per cent ownership stake in Kobo.

March 23, 2010: Kobo announces its first e-reader, a digital device users can download and peruse books on.

2011: Indigo launches Plum, a loyalty program that amasses two million members within six months.

Jan. 11, 2012: Japanese technology firm Rakuten acquires Kobo for US$315 million.

2013: Indigo starts offering “buy online, ship to store” services.

May 3, 2014: Indigo announces it will open departments devoted to American Girl, a Mattel, Inc.-owned brand of pricey dolls and accessories, in some of its stores.

Jan. 17, 2017: Indigo announces plan to move its corporate office to the forthcoming King Portland Centre in Toronto.

June 2, 2017: To mark Canada’s 150th birthday, Indigo releases “The World Needs More Canada,” a coffee-table book with insights from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Drake, Margaret Atwood, CĂ©line Dion and more.

Nov. 13, 2018: Indigo opens its first U.S. location at The Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey.

May 6, 2019: Indigo launches a baby registry service.

Sept. 25, 2019: Indigo offers Plum Plus, a new, paid tier of its loyalty program.

2020:  In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indigo starts to offer curbside pickup and launches a delivery option with Instacart.

Oct. 21, 2020: Indigo signs the 15 Percent Pledge, committing to increase its representation of books written by authors who are Black, Indigenous or people of colour.

February 2021: Indigo signs a pledge from the BlackNorth Initiative, vowing to meet a series of goals aimed at tackling anti-Black racism.

Sept. 6, 2022: Indigo announces Peter Ruis, its president, would take over the chief executive role from Reisman, Indigo’s founder, who would become executive chair of the board.

Feb. 8, 2023: Indigo says it experienced a cybersecurity incident that downed its website and limited its in-store transactions to cash-only purchases; the website problems would last for almost a month.

Feb. 24, 2023: Indigo reveals the data of current and former employees was stolen in the ransomware attack.

March 1, 2023: Indigo announces it won’t pay a ransom requested by cyber attackers.

June 7, 2023: Indigo says Reisman will soon retire as executive chair and from the board. Four of Indigo’s 10 directors reveal they are also leaving the Indigo board. Chika Stacy Oriuwa attributed her resignation to a “loss of confidence in board leadership” and “mistreatment.”

Aug. 22, 2023: Reisman retires from Indigo.

Aug. 23, 2023: Indigo announces plan to open an “urban concept store” at the Well development in Toronto, which Ruis says will have a jukebox, arcade games and manga section and sell coffee and alcohol.

Sept. 7, 2023: Indigo chief executive Ruis resigns, offering no explanation for his departure.

Sept. 18, 2023: Reisman returns as Indigo’s chief executive.

Nov. 10, 2023: Indigo’s location at Bay and Bloor streets in Toronto is splashed in red paint and posters of Reisman, who is Jewish, are hung criticizing a foundation she and Schwartz fund that offers scholarships to people with no family ties in Israel who served in the country’s army. Police charge 11 people in connection to the defacement but months later, charges against four are dropped.

Feb. 1, 2024: Trilogy Retail Holdings Inc. and Trilogy Investments L.P. offer to acquire the remaining shares they don’t hold in Indigo for $2.25 each and say if they are successful, they intend to take the retailer private.

March 2024: Indigo sells off American Girl merchandise at a discount and closes the department at its Eaton Centre store but won’t comment on whether its partnership with the doll brand has ended.

April 2, 2024: The Trilogy companies sweeten their offer to $2.50 per share.

April 6, 2024: Reisman tells customers she will bring back Indigo’s digital inventory search kiosks, program more events, add seating to more stores and find cafĂ© partners to fill spaces in Indigo shops left vacant by Starbucks.

May 27, 2024: Indigo shareholders vote vote to approve the privatization sale.

— By Tara Deschamps

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2024.

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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