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Over 75% of Canadian households shopped online last year. This number certainly isn’t expected to decrease anytime soon. One up and coming business that has taken advantage of the Canadian customs power is Shoes.com.
The latest venture from the founder of Coastal Contacts, Roger Hardy stumbled upon his footwear empire by happenstance. After his contact business had been sold, Hardy began searching for a new venture to invest his time, energy, and capital into. As Roger began looking into an investment fund for his earnings, a former employee asked for his help.
Sean Clark had created his small footwear business, ShoeMe.ca, with some funding from Hardy in early 2012. The business quickly began to take off. In 2014, the company was purchased in conjunction with OnlineShoes.com (a Seattle-based business) by Hardy and a group of investors. The plan was to combine the two companies and their $200 million in revenues into one. That one company became Shoes.com.
Hardy instantly knew the online footwear market was filled with opportunity in Canada. According to his calculations, “In the U.S. and other markets, about 10 to 15 percent of footwear is being bought online. In Canada, we’re still at about two to three percent. That tells us there is a $500 million to $600 million opportunity for the leader in this sector over the next five years.”
The problem with online selling in Canada revolves around imports. Shipping items from the United States to Canada can be difficult. In the past, many Canadian retailers found ways around this issue by limiting inventory. Hardy found, “Canadians could not get all the sizes and styles available in the U.S. and certainly not with an efficient delivery system.”
Hardy knew this wasn’t going to work – if Shoes.com was going to take off. The online retailer focuses on selling brands of shoes rarely seen in Canada, especially on short notice. Canadian customers are used to a week or two of wait time on a shipment. In the United States, most items are delivered within two to five days.
Still, Hardy knew there was a way to capitalize on the inefficiency. He had learned a few things while building Coastal Contacts. Hardy had a plan based on efficiency; “We mastered logistics, neutralizing the border. We ran dedicated line hauls. We used algorithms tied to Canadian border and customs, so officials knew which products were coming in advance allowing our trucks to drive straight through as if moving from state to state as opposed from country to country.”
Shoes.com has plans to continue growing the business. Brick and mortar locations are in the works for the web-based retailer. The initial location in Toronto opened up in December. In-house footwear brands have also been introduced to the Shoes.com lineup, and Hardy has taken to buying up and coming accessory brands. New locations, new brands, and a continued commitment to perfected logistics means Shoes.com should continue to see stellar growth in the future.