After going through a painful restructuring process just over a year ago, global footwear brand ALDO, based in Montreal, is poised for growth.
“We’re focused on growth and we’re really excited by being able to grow our wholesale divisions because we already have a very strong retail presence,” said David Bensadoun, CEO of ALDO. “Our goal is to make our business a little bit more diversified.
“These were really nice opportunities because both Ted Baker and Brooks Brothers are exactly the kind of shoes that we’re great at designing and sourcing. We have a very strong sourcing office. We have very strong product development and design teams. This was a chance to leverage those strengths and build some new revenue in the company that was not dependent on store footprint.
“In the case of the new licenses we have with Brooks Brothers and Ted Baker, we will be the exclusive wholesaler and distributor for North America. Most of our effort will be around opening up wholesale count but we’ll also be selling a line of footwear and bags to the Ted Baker and Brooks Brothers stores.”
Bensadoun said ALDO is currently in negotiations with two other brands which will be a similar arrangement but he can’t announce that just yet.
When looking to associate with different brands, he said the first thing ALDO looks at is the strength of that brand and if it has plenty of market potential.
“The second is that we have the skill set to do a great job with that brand. For example, in the case of Ted Baker and Brooks Brothers, we’ve always been very strong in men’s fashion footwear and we always have loved the premium end of the spectrum. ALDO is positioned a little bit more mid-price. So Ted Baker and Brooks Brothers are a chance for us to be a little more premium and do some design and some materials we often are not able to do with ALDO,” he said.
“The other thing we look for is that we have sourcing ability. In other words we have the right factory and the right material suppliers to be able to do a great job on the license. For example, we wouldn’t be very low price, very value oriented footwear because we don’t have that kind of sourcing and we also wouldn’t be good at doing ultra high end like designer brand level.”
Currently ALDO has 441 corporately owned stores and 1,200 franchise stores. There are 201 corporate stores in Canada and 240 in the US. The franchise stores are in 110 countries.
“We’re focused on growth now. As you know, we went through restructuring during COVID. We did everything we needed to do. We’re really happy with the company we have now and now we’re focused on growth,” said Bensadoun.
“So our growth is going to be one-third is going to come from wholesale, one-third is going to come from new franchise countries or franchise growth, and one-third will come from our store sales, our retail base.
“Retail is a completely different world than 2020. I think Canada is in great shape. We’re seeing really steady demand and it’s really exciting to see the interest the consumer has in fashion again. Internationally, we’re doing really well. We’re very, very happy with the growth. The US is a bit quieter this year but last year it was great. I think we’ve got to see how the US situation will evolve. The consumer there is clearly not as confident as they were last year. The non-stop talk about recession is not helping. Inflation is not helping. But we are selling a mid-price product so we benefit a little bit during economic downturns because people are still needing to replace parts of their wardrobe and so they will sometimes come and discover a mid-price brand and maybe in the past they might have been shopping at the higher end.”
Like many other retailers, Bensadoun said wages have increased substantially for the company in the last three years and it’s not as easy to find people as it used to be.
Adjusting the hours of operation in malls for example would be a positive move for the industry to help retailers be more efficient, freeing up some cash to pay rent or to be able to reduce retail prices.
The COVID pandemic pushed the retailer to seek creditor protection in 2020.
Through that restructuring process, it closed 267 stores and laid off more than 200 people.
The ALDO Group was founded in 1972.