By Craig Patterson
Toronto-based Davids Footwear has opened its first store outside of Toronto at Ottawa’s CF Rideau Centre, and the company plans on eventually operating about 15 stores across the country. Davids carries some of the world’s top luxury brands in its stores, and it is expanding its brand matrix as well as operations following a strategic partnership with luxury menswear retailer Harry Rosen.
The Harry Rosen partnership was announced in November of 2017 and as part of the deal, Harry Rosen’s CEO Larry Rosen was named as CEO of the Davids Footwear chain as well. Richard Markowitz, grandson of the founders of Davids, is the COO of Davids and is leading the strategy of the footwear retailer’s national expansion.
The CF Rideau Centre store in Ottawa is strategically located adjacent to Harry Rosen’s store in the mall. In fact, Davids new retail space was created by carving out about 2,100 square feet from the Harry Rosen store, in what most recently housed a separated men’s shoe department. The clustering of the two luxury stores makes sense as it draws in customers from the area, and that clustering is further enhanced by nearby retailers such as Tiffany & Co., Kate Spade and Birks.
Davids Footwear was established by Louis and Julia Markowitz in Toronto in 1951 with a standalone store location on College Street near Euclid Avenue, located between Kensington Market and Little Italy. Recognizing an opportunity to bring premium brands to the Canadian market, the Markowitz’s set out to buy prestige brands and as a result, they became the fist footwear retailer in Canada to work directly with some of Europe’s finest fashion houses.
In 1971, Davids Footwear was a trailblazer when it opened a store at 66 Bloor Street West in an area that had yet to become established as a high-end retail area, now known as the ‘Mink Mile’. Davids replaced a Toronto Dominion Bank branch that had occupied the base of the 1200 Bay Street mixed-use building, and it was a bit of a risky move — the street was known to be home to several large banks, though it was beginning to attract the attention of retailers looking to cater to affluent residents in nearby Rosedale and Forest Hill.
Davids Footwear remains at 66 Bloor Street West to this day, in an impressive 6,000 square foot flagship retail space that was designed by award-winning Toronto-based design firm Burdifilek. The Bloor Street store was recently expanded by taking over an adjacent space formerly housing sister retail brand Capezio — the Capezio nameplate was discontinued as part of Davids strategy to become Canada’s pre-eminent luxury footwear chain.
As part of the consolidation, Davids Footwear now carries several new ‘contemporary’-priced lines such as AGL, Golden Goose, and Vagabond, and the company continues to expand its own private label Davids line which has gained a considerable following of its own. The goal was to broaden the retailer’s appeal to a wider range of clients, and it continues to also focus on some of the world’s top brands such as Christian Louboutin, Valentino, Manolo Blahnik, Salvatore Ferragamo, Valentino and Jimmy Choo, among others. Stores also carry an assortment of designer handbags and accessories to compliment the footwear assortment.
Besides the Bloor Street flagship and the new Ottawa store, Davids Footwear operates three other standalone units in major shopping centres in Toronto. The Bayview Village store opened in the year 2000, followed by a store at Yorkdale Shopping Centre in 2005 and then, in 2015, at CF Sherway Gardens in a new expansion wing across from Harry Rosen. All four Toronto stores were designed by Burdifilek, and all three mall stores are said to be the top-performing footwear retailers at each centre.
As part of the Harry Rosen partnership, Davids Footwear is gaining access to some new luxury brands not previously carried in its stores, which will be announced at a later date.
As part of Davids expansion this fall, the company has launched a billboard campaign for the first time to promote its new Ottawa store. A national print campaign also seeks to further create consumer awareness as the company expands. Davids has introduced a new POS system, new warehousing and, this month, will be introducing a new loyalty program to further strengthen its brand.
As well, Davids’ enhanced e-commerce platform showcases styles carried in its stores and by request, customers may also receive personalized messages between store visits on events, sales, new designer arrivals and curated ideas designed to match an upcoming event or milestone. It’s a similar level of customer service that has made Harry Rosen one of the most respected menswear retailers in the world.
In terms of brick-and-mortar expansion, Richard Markowitz said that the company is anticipating opening approximately 10 more locations in Canada, bringing its total store count to about 15. Stores will ideally be in the 2,000 to 3,000 square foot range, either in AAA malls or on urban street fronts and, as part of its strategy, sometimes near existing Harry Rosen stores.
Markets such as Vancouver are targets for Davids Footwear chain as it expands and solidifies itself as a leading national chain similar to that of Harry Rosen for menswear in Canada.
The goal, as well, is to offer a curated assortment of footwear and accessories that distinguishes Davids from department store retailers as well as a handful of multi-brand footwear competitors. It’s an edited assortment of the finest brands that continues to see Davids growing customer loyalty with affluent shoppers, particularly at a time of unprecedented competition in the Canadian footwear market.
We’ll continue following Davids Footwear as it expands its product assortment as well as its operations into new markets in Canada.