Canada’s Eaton family is back in retail, but not in the way one might think.

This story first appeared in the September 21, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The veterans of the Eaton department store chain have joined forces with Hudson Capital Partners, a liquidation firm, to form Eaton Hudson. Eaton Hudson will provide asset disposition services to retailers, as well as develop and manage pop-up stores. Both services will be available throughout North America.

Fredrik Eaton serves as chairman of the board. Fredrik D’Arcy Eaton, James Schaye, Fulton Stokes and A.R. Williams round out the management team. The new firm has offices in Toronto, where the Eaton family is based, and Atlanta, the headquarters of the former Hudson Capital Partners. Most of the operations will be handled by the former Hudson Capital team members, with the Eaton family providing the bulk of the funding for the new entity.

D’Arcy Eaton said, “We’re basically investors now, looking for opportunities we understand and have a chance to earn a return on.”

Eaton said the component that they liked about the entity’s business model is the ability to leverage opening and closing stores through the pop-up concept as an opportunity for future growth instead of relying solely on store liquidations.

According to Schaye, who is chief executive officer of Eaton Hudson, the pop-up concept works for consumer brands that could use the retail presence without needing to commit to a long-term lease. A fashion firm could open seasonal pop-ups as pseudo-outlet stores to clear excess inventory, and know that it’ll pay rent only for however long the shops are open.

Eaton Hudson essentially would provide turnkey services that include financial modeling, site selection, lease negotiation, staffing, assortment planning and the physical setup and takedown of the shops.
The new firm also formed a partnership with 3pe Consulting to assist in the pop-up effort, headed by Andy Bailen, managing director of 3pe.

According to Bailen, the pop-up model — once the domain of retailers — is becoming increasingly popular with manufacturers, dot-com retailers and licensors and licensing agencies.

“A lot of people are testing the for-profit pop-up concepts and generating some meaningful top line, four-wall EBITDA,” Bailen said.