Toronto-based footwear designer Ron White continues to grow his retail and wholesale operations. He just opened a fifth free-standing store location, and he recently launched a new bridal footwear line. We interviewed Mr. White to learn more about his booming business, which had earned him the nickname of Canada's 'Shoe-Ru'.
Ron White founded his footwear business in 1993, when he opened a comfort-focused multi-brand store in Toronto called The Foot Shoppe. It grew to several locations and in 2006, Mr. White rebranded the stores to his own name, targeting a younger, more fashion-forward shopper. Soon after, Mr. White decided to create his own namesake footwear brand, merging style with comfort to create “All Day Heels®”, utilizing cutting-edge comfort technology. His private-label women’s collection quickly became the store's top seller, precipitating a wholesale expansion for the popular brand.
Last month, Ron White opened his fifth free-standing store in Toronto's Leaside area, at 1553 Bayview Avenue. Located in the heart of the 'Bayview Strip', the new store features about 1,200 square feet of retail space on its ground-level, as well as roughly 800 square feet of storage and operations in the basement. The shopping street features extra-wide sidewalks, pleasant patios and a plethora of loyal locals. Mr. White says that the store is doing exceptional sales after only being open for a month, and there's a reason why -- the area's patrons are typically upper-middle class and mature, which mirrors the brand's primary target market. Mr. White explained how the Leaside shopping strip is frequented by those living in areas such as Rosedale, Moore Park, and other adjacent affluent areas. These shoppers come to Leaside seeking a casual, relaxed shopping area away from the formalities of Yorkville and the hustle and bustle of a large shopping mall. Mr. White described how in a 'popular mall', roughly 25% of shoppers may be within his brand's target market while in Leaside, it's in excess of 95%.
Ron White operates a total of five brick-and-mortar store locations, all in Toronto. Besides the new Leaside location, Ron White stores are located at Manulife Centre in Yorkville, Sherway Gardens, Bayview Village, as well as on Lakeshore Road East in affluent Oakville. Mr. White said that there are no immediate plans for more free-standing stores, thought that could change in the future.
Ron White's wholesale business is booming, and Mr. White tells us that the company continues to see double-digit growth. It wholesales through a number of Canadian retail partners, with his main line, simply called Ron White, selling at upscale retailers including Holt Renfrew, Ogilvy in Montreal and O'Connor's in Calgary. His lower-priced line, WHITE Ron White, is carried at selected Hudson's Bay and Town Shoes locations. His priciest line, Ron White Signature, is carried in his free-standing stores as well as online. Remarkably, Mr. White says that his brand's sales in the United States now surpass sales in Canada, and the brand is projected to see explosive growth over the next several years as it looks to partner with retailers overseas.
Ron White's newest footwear line was designed specifically for brides. The five-style collection launched in March, and it is carried exclusively at Kleinfeld Bridal on the seventh floor of Hudson's Bay at the Toronto Eaton Centre. Mr. White explained that his comfort technology allows the stylish bride to keep her footwear on for the entirety of her 'special day', rather than have to remove shoes due to discomfort.