Interview: DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse’s Canadian expansion
We interviewed Town Shoes President and CEO Bruce Dinan about DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse‘s Canadian store expansion. In April, DSW bought a 49.2% stake in Town Shoes, paving the way for DSW’s entry into Canada. Mr. Dinan says that DSW stores will eventually roll-out across the country, and that its Canadian stores will essentially be the same as those in the United States. Its first two Canadian locations open early next month and, later, DSW will launch its Canadian e-commerce website.
DSW’s strategy for entering Canada is initially a cautious one. Its first two locations, both in suburban Toronto, will test the market before it opens other Canadian stores. DSW will ensure that these first stores are able to provide the same quality experience of its US locations and once confident enough, DSW will open stores Canada-wide. Its first two Canadian locations open 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 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.
Although DSW’s first two Canadian stores are suburban, Mr. Dinan says that he isn’t averse to opening inner-city locations, provided that the right space becomes available. In the United States, DSW has urban locations in areas such as San Francisco’s Union Square, Washington DC’s Georgetown, Downtown Boston, as well as several Manhattan stores. In Canada, busy centres such as Downtown Toronto and Vancouver could therefore house urban DSW stores.
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. Mr. Dinan says that as far as he’s aware, DSW intends to purchase all remaining shares of Town Shoes. 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.
Each Canadian DSW store will have over 22,000 pairs of shoes. Handbags and accessories will also be carried. About 80% of the brands in DSW’s American stores will be carried in Canada. Canada’s DSW stores will also carry some brands exclusive to Town Shoes.
DSW is hugely popular in the United States, with 410 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.
DSW’s Canadian e-commerce site launches later this year, with thousands of shoes available to purchase online. Over 180,000 Canadians are already enrolled in the company’s rewards program.