ShoesPopUp-001

Shoes.com steps into bricks-and-mortar retail

Online shoe company opens first store in Toronto

Vancouver-based Shoes.com (or ShoeMe.ca in Canada) is opening its first retail location in Toronto.

The store, located on Queen Street West, will run as a pop-up for the next few months.

“We have a long-term lease of the space, and we’re in the final steps of finalizing the store design,” said Geoff Henshaw, VP of brand and retail at Shoes.com. “So we thought, in the interim, let’s get a pop-up store activated in the front third of the space and start learning about things that we can apply to the long-term retail strategy.”

The store will showcase a new collection, brand or theme every four to six weeks. “On our online site, themes and brands and collections turn over quite quickly. That’s just the nature of the online space,” said Henshaw. “We’re looking to push that concept into retail.”

The retail store is meant to give the brand more exposure to consumers and get them more comfortable with buying shoes online. Henshaw said only about 3-5% of Canadians purchase shoes online.

“There’s obviously a significant group that we’re not reaching with our online message, so it’s an opportunity to reach that group,” he said.

“Our current online revenue in North America is about $300 million, so our retail stores are not going to surpass our online business any time soon [but] we see them as an important brand touchpoint in major cities across Canada and in the U.S.”

The company is opening another store in Toronto next year and one in Vancouver, and is actively looking at other markets.

To promote the first Toronto shop, which opens Dec. 2, Shoes.com is handing out coffee and hot chocolate in a branded truck around the city. It also launched a contest asking Torontonians what they call their city (The 6 or Tdot) for a chance at winning shoes for a year. The campaign, developed in-house, also includes digital advertising.

On the online front, Shoes.com recently partnered with Sentient Technologies to introduce “Visual Filter” on its Canadian site. The technology lets customers find the perfect pair of boots without setting filters or using text-based search. Users click on product images and the filter quickly learns their style preferences and provides recommendations.

“We’re looking to personalize the online shopping experience by curating collections that would be designed for each individual customer,” said Henshaw. “With the rise of mobile and mediums like Instagram, our culture is becoming more visually oriented. We feel [this service] allows for visually oriented search that’s quite engaging.”

The technology is currently being tested with women’s boots, and the company is monitoring how customers are responding before it decides how to proceed.

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