Two million pairs of shoes from over 600 designers. That’s what will soon be available on DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse’s Canadian e-commerce site. The popular American-owned value-priced multi-brand footwear retailer is expanding into Canada in a big way, both online as well as with multiple bricks-and-mortar store locations. We interviewed the company’s Canadian CEO about the new website, as well as DSW’s plans for brick-and-mortar stores across Canada.
Town Shoes President and CEO Bruce Dinan runs DSW’s Canadian operations. In April of 2014, DSW bought a 49.2% stake in Town Shoes, paving the way for DSW’s entry into Canada. The Canadian e-commerce site is unique in how it features not only DSW footwear, but separate tabs for its Town Shoes, The Shoe Company, and Shoe Warehouse websites. The company’s popular Shoe Lovers Rewards program also applies to online DSW purchases, where after meeting a spending threshold, shipping is free for ‘VIP clients’. For those otherwise not looking to pay for shipping, purchases can be shipped to a local Town Shoes-owned retail location. Some shoppers prefer the in-store pickup option, according to Mr. Dinan, as product may be retrieved at the customer’s convenience.
Mr. Dinan explained how footwear ordered from DSW’s Canadian website will be shipped from its current two Ontario locations, and how this will change when DSW opens more Canadian locations. He says that we’ll soon be able to report on more Canadian DSW locations, including its first for Western Canada.
DSW’s strategy for entering Canada was initially a cautious one. Its first two locations, both in suburban Toronto, tested the market to ensure that they are able to provide the same quality experience as its US locations. Its first two Canadian locations opened on August 7th at Heartland Town Centre in Mississauga, and at Woodland Hills Shopping Centre in Newmarket.
According to Mr. Dinan, DSW’s Canadian stores will all be about the same size as its American locations. Its first two Canadian stores, both about 20,000 square feet, are only slightly smaller than DSW’s average store size of 22,000 square feet. DSW ultimately seeks Canadian retail space in the 18,000 to 24,000 square foot range. Each Canadian DSW store will have over 22,000 pairs of shoes, as well as an extensive selection of handbags and accessories. About 80% of the brands in DSW’s American stores are carried in Canada, and Canada’s DSW stores also carry brands exclusive to Town Shoes.
Buying Town Shoes was a strategic move on the part of DSW. Not only does DSW gain Town Shoes’ Canadian market expertise, it also secures its pre-existing national distribution network. The 62 year old Town Shoes brand will also continue to grow and expand in Canada, as will company-owned The Shoe Company, Shoe Warehouse, and Sterling Shoes.
DSW is hugely popular in the United States with over 430 stores in that country. Its name indicates its business model – it sells designer shoes at discounted prices. The company has hundreds of millions in cash and no debt.