Shoe retailer DSW plans to expand by up to 50 stores in Canada over three years and will roll out nail care services, moves that were announced as part of a three-year strategy that includes changing the company name.
The U.S. company, which operates 112 The Shoe Company/Shoe Warehouse stores and 27 DSW stores in Canada, plans to also enter the Quebec market too for the first time, as the corporate entity rebrands under the name Designer Brands.
"As we looked very carefully at the portfolio of banners that we managed in Canada, we realized with the Town business that we needed to move on," said Mary Turner, president of The Shoe Company/Shoe Warehouse banners within DSW. The company closed the last of its 38 Town Shoe stores in Canada this year. "We are taking all of the energy of the four banners and will focus them into the three."
Turner said DSW, based in Columbus, Ohio, would look for opportunities in Canada that fit its model of operating in boxes of about 15,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet in locations with populations of 400,000 or more. The Shoe Company’s expansion will continue a model of stores in the 4,000-square-foot range and communities as small as 30,000 people.
"There is clearly an opportunity in Quebec; it's 25 percent of the population and we are not currently serving them," Turner said, adding the decision not to enter Quebec was based on bilingualism capacity within the company's systems.
She said her company is flexible on decisions on where it will locate the new stores, but acknowledged the state of the retail market could create an opportunity with choice leases for two-thirds of new stores targeted as The Shoe Company and the rest DSW.
The Shoe Company format "can be very flexible about the type of real estate it is located in," said Turner. "The critical thing about The Shoe Company is we like to be close to the customer. It can be a strip mall, high street, enclosed mall. We are actively looking."
Turner said physical stores are complementary to internet sales.
"People love to research online. They love to research in-store. They love to buy in-store and buy online," said Turner, adding the expansion of stores creates a last-mile network for her company. "Our digital business always goes up in the community where we open a store. We become our own billboard."
On the mani-pedi front, DSW said in February it was expanding its partnership with W Nail Bar to add nail salons to five additional retail locations in Austin, Texas; Washington, D.C.; and Dublin, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus.
"One of our big initiatives on both sides of the border is to differentiate ourselves by adding experiences and services," said Turner about the nail bar, which takes up 2,000 square feet in DSW locations. "We are actively assessing our current locations [in Canada] and assessing where we should do our pilot in."
The team that considers where that location will be in Canada plans to come to the country in two weeks to choose a site.
Shoe care services will also be rolled out at both The Shoe Company and DSW in Canada with a third-party partner.