Harry Rosen and Davids Footwear join for national expansion

In a move both parties say was years in the making, luxury menswear retailer Harry Rosen has entered into a joint venture with Davids Footwear stores to expand the luxury shoe retailer’s brand across Canada.

The move unites two different generations of two Canadian retail families that have been doing business on the same strip of Bloor St. since 1971.

“We thought there was a great opportunity to work together to take the Davids concept and expand it right across the country,” said Larry Rosen, chief executive officer of Harry Rosen.

Rosen, 61, whose father founded Harry Rosen, will add the title of CEO of Davids Footwear to his resumé as part of the deal.

Richard Markowitz, 34, whose grandparents founded Davids, will assume the role of president.

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Davids will continue to run as an independent organization, keeping its brand identity intact, as well as retaining key talent.

“We see a network of maybe up to 20 Davids stores across the country, we see a very strong online, we see locating in the seven major markets in this country,” said Rosen, who said his company will be lending its expertise with landlords and vendors among other things, to help Davids grow.

The Harry Rosen chain is just now putting the finishing touches on a $ 100-million national expansion that grew the empire to 18 stores, to better compete against newly arrived U.S. rivals Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Harry Rosen’s flagship Toronto store is located at 82 Bloor St. W., and Davids Footwear’s flagship operates at 66 Bloor St. W.

Davids operates three other stores – at Bayview Village, Sherway Gardens and Yorkdale. But while Davids is gaining a lot of insight into what customers across Canada like and want as they shop their online store, the company has no physical locations outside Toronto.

Despite new competitors in the luxury sector, Harry Rosen remains the top luxury menswear player in all of the seven major markets in Canada, says Rosen, which puts them in a good position to help Davids expand.

The stores aren’t merging – just the management at the top, said both men.

“We’re not putting Davids stores inside Harry Rosens. Harry Rosen will continue to run as the country’s leading destination quality menswear, and Davids we hope will become the leading quality footwear retailer in this country,” said Rosen.

Expanding the size of Davids’ Toronto stores is a possibility, said Rosen.

“Potentially, yes. The answer is we just got together. The marriage just started yesterday, so we can’t plan our entire life together we don’t know how many kids we’re going to have just yet, but we’re going to have lots of them.”

Markowitz said that while Davids already has a large stable of luxury brands, there are more that could be added through Harry Rosen vendors.

By sales-per-square-foot, Davids is the number one footwear retailer in all of their mall locations, said Markowitz.

Davids was founded by Markowitz’s grandparents and is named after their son, Markowitz’s father.

Markowitz said his grandparents, Louis and Julia travelled to Italy in the early days of the business, working with footwear factories in Bologna, Milan and Florence to bring high-quality footwear to the Canadian marketplace. They opened the 5,000-square-foot flagship on Bloor St. in 1971 in a former bank building.

The second generation of Markowitzes to manage the business travelled to France to meet with shoemakers and learn the trade. Now they’re ready to retire and watch the third generation take over.

“The Rosen family has grown and operated a tremendous national retail chain that is world-class and that is exactly what we want for the Davids brand,” said Markowitz.

Retail consultant Farla Efros, president, HRC Advisory, said it’s a great idea. She said that while Harry Rosen is a Canadian brand, it has an international reputation.

“It will give Davids a great opportunity to grow and learn. I think if they did it on their own, they would run up against the bigger chains with more capital behind them.”

TORONTO STAR

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