Caiman rebuilds Tower

Three superstores, new site planned

Online merchant Caiman Inc., which acquired the bankrupt Tower Records' logo, Tower.com and the company's intellectual property for $4.2 million in a March bankruptcy auction, has big plans for the brand.

That's the word from Caiman Inc. CEO Didier Pilon, who said he plans to relaunch Tower.com as well as open brick-and-mortar superstores in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco within nine months. In fact, Pilon has turned to some experts to help revive the Tower brand, hiring former Tower purchasing executive George Scarlet as director of entertainment purchasing for the company and former Tower buyer Kevin Hawkins.

The company, which buys mainly from one-stops and some independent distributors, hopes to convert to buying direct from all independent distributors and the majors and, where appropriate, the labels themselves, sources said.

Earlier in the decade, Caiman had a distribution operation that went into Chapter 11. Pilon said he closed that operation and has since been focusing on its online business.

London-based Caiman employs about 200 people, operates offices in Montreal and Sacramento and has a 48,000-square-foot warehouse in Miami, Pilon said. Billboard estimates the company's volume at about $150 million-$175 million.

Tower.com is a good fit for Caiman, which operates its own site at Caiman.com. But it also appears to do big business as a participant in the Amazon marketplace. At its peak, Tower.com was generating $25 million in business, but "what I like about it is it still gets 40,000 unique visitors a day," Pilon said.

Since Tower was liquidated, the online store has been operating with a skeleton crew, so it has a lot of missing and white pages. But Caiman said it will fix that. The plan is to launch the site with brand-new technology behind the store and to become the entertainment destination, Pilon said. The store will offer 275,000 CD and DVD titles and about 1.2 million book titles.

Pilon also plans to sell vinyl and wants to make that one of the site's differentials. "We are best at selling one piece at a time," he said. "That's all we know how to do."

Ed Christman is a senior correspondent for Billboard.
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