The Bonimart Story


A Dual Ethnic Identity for a Major Canadian Merchandiser

(from Sense 78 - A Communication, Marketing and Design Publication of Lippincott & Margulies Inc.)


When Oshawa Wholesale Ltd. came to Lippincott & Margulies several years ago, it was a leading wholesaler and retailer in the Canadian market with sales approaching $1 billion dollars.


Founded as a wholesaler to IGA stores in Canada, it had expanded into a variety of retail activities that encompassed supermarkets, drug stores, gas stations and other outlets.

The number of separate retail entities under which it operated were considerable, with names including IGA, Shop & Save, Kent Drugs, Towers, Food City, Bolands, Miniprix, Coinamatic and Langs. These many retail entities, plus an overall corporate image that was wholesale-oriented to the outside world, provided a number of identification problems that needed attention. 

Following a thorough investigation, Lippincott & Margulies made a number of recommendations to Oshawa Wholesale.


First was to eliminate the word, Wholesale, from the corporate name - and thereby correct misleading impression. The company's name is now the Oshawa Group Ltd.

Another recommendation was to develop for cohesive retail identity based on the name or names systems it would have the flexibility to encompass, when needed, the many retail identities now and use.

In developing a new, umbrella identity, particular attention was paid to the fact that Canada has dual ethnic cultures. Any identity that did not address the needs of both its English- and French-speaking peoples would have a problem.

Following image criteria thus established, a new retail identity was finally developed: Bonimart.


The name is unique in that it has meaning in both French and English and relates equally to both cultures. Many portions of Oshawa's retail food and merchandise activities were moved under this umbrella.


But the new name offered additional flexibility. "Boni" the pivotal symbol, could be used as the base for other identities. Thus, a substantial number of food markets under the Miniprix and IGM names were converted to Boniprix.


Oshawa's convenience store chain is now being called Bonsoir; and the number of controlled-line stores featuring a limited range of dry grocery items have opened under the name, Boni.


Oshawa Group now has a flexible retail identification system that can be used, depending on marketing objectives, to encompass its many areas of retail activity.

Lippincott & Margulies then embarked on the task of creating a distinctive graphic stance for both the corporation and its new retail entity.


As it related to Bonimart, the requirements were that it must be highly visible but still tasteful, that it must respect the attributes of "Boni" or "good" market, and then it must be visually adaptable to a wide range of retail activity.

In developing the new system, it was determined that there should be one primary focus of attention, and this resulted in the distinctive "B" now used in the name.

Criteria for the new corporate stance called for a subtle link with the retail identity. Thus, within the "O" of the Oshawa name came to be seen a graphic rendition that is similar to the circle within the "B" of Bonimart. Color and secondary topography are also the same.

Today, The Oshawa Group Ltd. has passed $1 billion dollars in sales and continues to grow rapidly, becoming not only one of the leading corporate companies in Canada, but a leading company in the world.

I've reproduced below the text of a full page ad that appeared in the Montreal Gazette on September 9, 1981.

Bonimart moves into the 80s.

Plans include new clean modern look.

Bonimart, Canada's premiere discount department store chain, announces new initiatives in a wide variety of areas - to make the chain even stronger and more competitive in the 1980's.

"It's a decade of changing lifestyles and more astute consumers," says Bonimart president W. Atkinson, "and the retailer who hopes to stay ahead must pay attention to those trends and respond to them."

Spearheading the new program is a major renovation campaign designed to make Bonimart stores a more attractive and comfortable shopping environment. "We're expanding stores in making them more alive and exciting inside," Mr. Atkinson explains. "Wider aisles, brighter colors, refurbishing whatever is required... it all adds up to make Bonimart a more enjoyable place to shop."

Geographic expansion is also part of the Bonimart campaign, with a new store slated for Ontario bringing the chain to a total of 47 stores in Quebec, the Maritimes and Ontario.


While the chain is undergoing physical change, Bonimart is holding firm to its basic philosophy of doing business. Bill Atkinson explains: "Bonimart offers first quality merchandise with the emphasis on brand names, at low competitive prices, everyday - plus weekly specials. 

"We give guarantees. We believe in straightforward advertising and totally honest promotional techniques. We test merchandise for quality and safety. We provide clean well-design stores, staffed with well-trained, friendly people. And when we say we give you a good value for your money-we mean it. Our buyers are knowledgeable and experienced, so they stay on top of the retail market."

Change is part of the retail business," Mr. Atkinson stated, "and Bonimart is bound to experience even more of it in coming years. However, our customers have come to depend upon us for their everyday needs at reasonable prices. So value priced merchandise and good service will not go out of style at Bonimart."

Today's fashions for today's consumer.

More than ever, today's shopper is concerned about getting fashionable clothing at sensible prices. Recognizing this concern, Bonimart has become a leader in fulfilling the fashion needs of Canadian men, women and children.

Though its buying offices in Montreal, Canada's fashion capital, Bonimart is purchasing a large percentage of their seasonal lines from major Canadian suppliers. 


Their fashion experts work closely with quality suppliers to get their customers the best quality merchandise for the best possible price.  And the proof of this is easily visible in any Bonimart store where you'll find a good stock of up-to-date popular priced fashion.


Bonimart has also earned its reputation for an excellent selection of children's wear and ever-growing popularity of Bonimart's men's wear departments bears witness to Bonimart's knowledge of the Canadian fashion marketplace. Knowledge that is leading consumer to look to Bonimart for their fashion needs.

Bonimart is proud out of consumer guarantees.

Everyday Bonimart strives to bring the customers the best valuable possible on all Bonimart's merchandise.

To make that happen, Bonimart has implemented strong value, selection, rain check and refund policies that the entire organization lives by.


Bonimart Value Policy.

"Saving money is important. But what you save on is as important as how much. At Bonimart you save on the best quality merchandise you can buy for the money. And that's value."


Bonimart Refund Policy.

Bonimart guarantees it if you are not totally happy with any purchase, Bonimart will replace it, replace it under the warranty or even give you a refund. And they'll do it with a smile.


Our Rain Check Policy is the right idea!

It is our intention to have sufficient availability of advertised items. Should an article sell out, we will offer an article of equal value or provide you with the Rain Check which will be honoured at the advertised sale price if additional merchandise is available.

Bonimart Selection Policy.

It's disconcerting to make a trip to the store only to find the items you want are not available. Bonimart strives to maintain sufficient supplies of sale merchandise to cover expected demand and to keep enough of your everyday needs on hand so you'll always be able to find what you want when you want it.

Four consumer guarantees Bonimart is proud of and justifiably so.

Retail Research Foundation.

The answer to consumer concerns.

In response to public concern regarding the quality of merchandise being offered, Bonimart and several other retailers decided than an efficient and impartial way had to be found to test merchandise before it was marketed.


This led to the founding of the retail Research Foundation of Canada, an organization established as an independent nonprofit joint venture by Bonimart Department stores and five other major retailers.

Its purpose: "To provide technical support to Canadian Retailers in delivering to their customers Quality Assured Merchandise in accordance to government regulations." The RRF laboratory tests consumer products to verify their performance and ensure that they are properly labeled and truthfully advertised.

It is the initiation of such ideas that has led to Bonimart's position as a leader in answering the needs of the consumer and has been a key factor in the growth of Bonimart Department stores has a store to shop and trust.


Victoire pour Ia syndicalisation des employes de commerce English Translation

Bulletin d'intormation de la Fédération des travailleurs du Quebec MARS-AVRIL 1978

Dans un important jugement. le juge Rene Beaudry du Tribunal du travail vient d'ordonner au magasin Bonimart de Saint-Jean, de reintegrer 12 employes qui avaient ete illegalement congedies en aoCit 1976 suite a une campagne de syndicalisation et a une greve et de leur payer tout le salaire perdu, ce qui represente une somme de plus de $580.000.

Ce jugement constitue une eclatante victoire pour les employes de commerce, particulierement ceux des magasins de marchandises seches, qui veulent se syndiquer et negocier leurs conditions de salaires et de travail. Le fait qu'une chaine de magasins aussi puissante que Bonimart se fasse mettre au pas ouvre Ia voie pour un effort accru de syndicalisation dans un secteur extremement difficile.

M. Bill Mackay, sec retaire-tresorier du local 502 de I Union des employes de commerce (FTC)), qui represente les employes du magasin Bonimart de Saint-Jean, a rappele qu'en fevrier 1976, apres quatre mois de greve, l'em-ployeur, selon une tactique classique, a declare la fermeture du magasin. Quelques mois plus tard, Bonimart annoncait la reouverture de son maga-sin; itembauchealors110employesdontseulement21 &talent a son emploi au moment du declenchement de la greve; du memo coup. Bonimart refuse de reprendre 14 employes qui avaient fait la greve.

Dans un premier jugement, rendu le 22 mars 1977. le commissaire du travail, Rene Gosselin, declarait que la fermeture du magasin de Saint-Jean constituait un "lock-out deguise- de la part de Bonimart et que le ref us de l'employeur de reintegrer les 14 grevistes au moment de la reouverture equivalait a un congediement illegal. Le juge Beaudry vient de confirmer la decision du commissaire Gosselin et ii oblige Bonimart a reintegrer 12 salaries illegalement congedies avec tous leurs droits ainsi que le paiement de tout le salaire perdu depuis un an et demi. Original document


Victory for unionization business employees

Information Bulletin of the Federation of Quebec Workers MARCH-APRIL 1978​

In an important judgment, Judge Rene Beaudry of the Labor Court, ordered the Bonimart store in Saint-Jean to reinstate 12 employees who had been unlawfully dismissed in August 1976 following a union organizing campaign and a strike and to pay them all lost wages, which represents a sum of more than $580,000.

This judgment is a shocking victory for commercial employees, especially those in dry goods stores, who want to unionize and negotiate their wages and work conditions. The fact that a chain of stores as powerful as Bonimart is being phased out opens the way for an increased effort of unionization in an extremely difficult sector.

Mr. Bill Mackay, Sec-Treasurer of Local 502 of the Union of Commercial Employees (FTC), who represents the employees of the Bonimart store in Saint-Jean, recalled that in February 1976, after four months of strike, the employer, according to a classic tactic, declared the closure of the store. A few months later, Bonimart announced the reopening of his store. He is employed at the start of the strike; from the same shot. Bonimart refuses to take back 14 employees who had made the strike.

In a first judgment rendered on March 22, 1977, the labor commissioner, Rene Gosselin, declared that the closing of the Saint-Jean store constituted a "disguise lockout" on the part of Bonimart and that the return of the employer to reinstate the 14 strikers at the time of reopening amounted to an unlawful dismissal, Beaudry J. just confirmed the decision of Commissioner Gosselin and obliges Bonimart to reinstate 12 illegally dismissed employees with all their rights and the payment of all the salary lost for a year and a half. Original document


Les employes de Bonimart de St-Jean annoncent leur victoire. en compagnie de representants de l'Union des employes de commerce et de la FTC). Photo: Le Canada Francais.

Employees of Bonimart de St-Jean announce their victory. with representatives of the Union of Commercial Employees and the FTC). Photo: Canada Francais.