Canadian Footwear Brand Maguire Expands to NYC with 1st International Storefront: Interviews

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Maguire, a Canadian, women-led, direct-to-consumer footwear brand, is opening its first international boutique in New York City.

The store, by sisters and Montrealers Myriam and Romy Maguire, will be located in Nolita at 198 Elizabeth Street – an area once dominated by big brands and flagships, now popping up with independent retailers like Maguire due to pandemic-related commercial rent reductions. 

The 1,000-square-foot boutique, in the trendy neighbourhood, will open its doors to customers in June.

Myriam and Romy began their retail business in 2017 in Montreal and opened a new shop in Toronto in 2020. The sisters plan to continue growth in perhaps other markets in the US and then into Europe in London.

Maguire Montreal Store 5365 St-Laurent Blvd (Image: Maguire)
Myriam Belzile-Maguire

“When we launched (in 2017), we launched with a bunch of events. We did pop ups in containers. We were trying to sell high-end products in containers but we felt that it was not a good fit. So right away in 2017, we took a tiny location inside a glasses shop – a shop in shop – and that guaranteed us a flow of customers coming in every day through the glasses shop and looking at our product,” said Myriam. “Basically when we launched we only had two products and we had five samples. There was a bunch of samples in the store and when people would ask us to try something we would have to tell them we were sold out and they’re coming back in two weeks.

“But from there we built a business. The business has been kind of bootstrapped from the beginning.” 

After the small store, the sisters opened a big concept store in Montreal with their head office at the back of the store. The store is located on St. Laurent while the Toronto store is on Dundas West.

The sisters said the New York store opening coincides with the arrival of a highly-anticipated summer collection, which will feature fashion-forward high-heels for events and occasions, large totes and handbags in playful colours, patterns and classic neutrals, and hot summer sandals in bright, bold colours and metallics.

They said the shop will be a stone’s throw from other hot and like-minded brands such as Everlane, Cuyana, Sézane and Mejuri. 

Maguire Toronto Store 1514 Dundas St West (Image: Maguire)

Maguire moved into the export market between 2020 and 2021, where sales outside Québec have increased from 11 per cent to 42 per cent to date. Sustained online efforts, a new partnership with US retailer Madewell, and a new free shipping option in the US have all contributed to this marked increase in the US sales. These circumstances, coupled with the pandemic-related drop in New York commercial rents, have created the perfect conditions for small, direct-to-consumer businesses like Maguire to carve out a niche in the area just outside of Soho where big brands were dominant pre-COVID, according to the company.

Myriam said the opening of a new store in New York City will be the first time the brand is exposed to an international fashion market. New York is home to one of the four major fashion weeks. People from the industry travel to New York at least twice a year to see what’s new on the market. 

“To become an international brand based in Canada we need to be in a place where a lot of international fashion people hang out,” she said. 

“New York is an opportunity and it’s also a place we always wanted to go.”

Romy said that based on the brand’s experience in Toronto, a storefront like this in New York is still the best way to enter a new market. 

“What we’ve experienced is that when we open a new store we get lots of sales in-store but after a couple of months we get a lot of sales online,” she said. “The physical store brings more sales online for us, every single time we open a store.”

The sisters believe the New York City store will generate sales in the northeast portion of the US. 

“First we’ll open New York and see where the other locations of our customers bring us. It’s going to be a great laboratory to know what’s the next destination in the US. But otherwise, we’re looking to maybe open a location in London to have our first point in Europe, but we’ll need to be more organized in terms of international shipping,” said Myriam. “US first and we’ll focus on the US and then after that we do have plans to maybe open in Europe because we feel it’s like the way to go to become an international brand these days.” 

Myriam worked in the footwear business for more than 10 years, specifically as a shoe designer for 6 of those years at the Aldo Group. By going direct to consumer, like many businesses have done in recent years, from high-end factories in Europe, they were able to sell directly to customers without distributors or agents. That makes it a cost savings for consumers. 

“We ship from the factory to the store and this way we’re also able to be transparent in the way we do business. So we show what the factory looks like, what the conditions are in the factory, we also share the costs of each product with our customers so they know the production costs and for us it’s more a way to educate the customers,” said Myriam.

Romy said at the beginning of the retailer’s existence the intention was to be online only. 

Romy Belzile-Maguire

“But we quickly realized they wanted to try the shoes, see the materials, touch the product. So we realized we needed to integrate the stores. So that’s where we had this vision where you can shop online, buy in-store and vice versa,” she said. “We realized that the shopping experience in-store for shoes was really not fun and shoe shopping should be fun. It’s a lot of fun to buy shoes when you’re a woman. It’s an exciting experience to buy and try on shoes.

“Shoe shopping is about finding the right shoe. We came up with the idea of the big wardrobe in stores. So each of our stores have a built-in wardrobe with all the sizes. So people can try shoes on very quickly. They can try on as many as they want.”

Myriam added that stores are more of a service point, and an experience point, than a place where shoes are sold under pressure. 

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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