By Mario Toneguzzi
Footwear retailer ECCO, founded about 55 years ago in Denmark with a mission to produce comfortable shoes, is in expansion mode across Canada.
Jordan Searle, president of ECCO in Canada, told Retail Insider the brand, which has been here for 25 years, has been really well supported by retailers and will continue to expand its reach.
“It was distributed predominantly by wholesale originally and then over the years we developed retail as well,” said Searle. “So now our business is mostly balanced across wholesale distribution, retail and ecommerce.”
There are 33 stores in Canada in the Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa, Quebec City, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and the Greater Vancouver Area.
“This year already we’ve opened four stores. We opened at Scarborough Town Centre in Toronto, CF Richmond Centre in Vancouver, Park Royal in West Vancouver and we recently opened another outlet in Edmonton at the international airport,” said Searle.
“The latter half of this year we’re also opening up at CF Pacific Centre in Vancouver, Oakridge Centre in Vancouver, and CF Market Mall in Calgary. So this year we’re actually opening seven stores in total. That will bring us up to a total of 36 stores and then we are aiming by about 2021 to be between 43 and 45 stores.”
Searle said he wouldn’t consider the company’s expansion as rapid.
“We see an opportunity to be represented in key areas in markets where we haven’t been represented before. There is a challenge in retail right now with a lot of more traditional retailers closing their doors unfortunately and that leaves a lot of our consumers without opportunities to buy out there,” he said.
“We need to ensure that we service our ECCO loyal consumers. It’s really about ensuring that we have distribution as opposed to an aggressive expansion across the country. We are not immune to the trends that we see in retail mainly that a lot of omnichannel and ecommerce is now something which is affecting certain bricks and mortar stores. So we’re very conscious of that but we do believe that we are under-represented as a brand in Canada.”
ECCO was founded in 1963 in Denmark by Karl Toosbuy. It’s still family-owned today.
“Mr. Toosbuy’s dream was to produce comfortable footwear. He was also very focused on controlling the entire process,” said Searle. “Just like in 1963, ECCO is still a vertically integrated company. What that means is we are producing all of our leather to make the footwear and we also make the shoes ourselves. And we also sell the shoes ourselves.
“And we distribute via wholesale, retail and ecommerce. The other thing about the product is that there is this Scandinavian heritage so it’s really coming from a heritage of form following function . . . We make comfortable shoes so people can perform in comfortable shoes.”
ECCO started out with 16 employees and one market. Today, it operates in 50 markets across the world with 17,000 members.
The company prides itself on its passion for making great shoes from drawing the first lines of a shoe right through to selling them in its stores around the world.
“Unlike most other global shoe brands, we choose to operate our own tanneries and shoe factories. We control everything ourselves. Throughout our history, our philosophy has been to make shoes that are shaped to fit the foot, not the other way around. This is essential to who we are. It drives us forward and compels us to innovate. It is simple. We want to be the best shoe company in the world. With this vision, nothing is left to chance,” says the company on its website.
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org