NEWS
11/12/2015 17:04 EST | Updated 11/12/2016 00:12 EST

Vancouver-based Shoes.com to open storefronts, acquires U.S. brand Richer Poorer

TORONTO — Vancouver-based Shoes.com is hoping to bolster its business with the acquisition of a successful U.S. accessories brand and plans to expand offline with the launch of bricks-and-mortar locations.

The footwear and apparel e-tailer announced Thursday that it had acquired California-based Richer Poorer, which produces socks and underwear and will soon add basic T-shirts to its inventory.

Shoes.com customers will be able to peruse and purchase products from Richer Poorer and other brands with the launch of a downtown Toronto location on Queen Street West slated for later this month.

Functioning like a pop-up shop but with a long-term lease, the Toronto store will feature a new brand each month, with an initial focus on highlighting Canadian companies, said Shoes.com co-founder and CEO Roger Hardy. The company also plans to launch other bricks-and-mortar stores in Vancouver and the U.S.

"From what we've seen, having success online is complemented by having a retail footprint," Hardy said in a phone interview from Vancouver.

"We need to be able to do something that really creates an experience for our customer and do something different that's engaging. And that's what we're thinking of in our store footprint — just to bring the brand to life for consumers."

News of the Shoes.com expansion comes on the heels of online retail giant Amazon launching a traditional bookstore in Seattle's University Village.

"It's obviously a great move and customers will really appreciate what they've done and the customers are going to appreciate what we've done," said Hardy.

Richer Poorer had already achieved success independently before falling under the Shoes.com banner and is stocked by more than 800 retailers, including Canadian menswear outfitter Harry Rosen.

Hardy said the acquisition is in line with the company's strategy to bring fast-growing brands into the fold, and the pairing of socks with footwear was an ideal fit.

"I think it's a hot category," said Hardy who described stylish socks for men as "the new neckties."

"Everyone's gone from wearing black socks or white socks to making a statement with their socks."

In September, Shoes.com announced plans to launch a two-hour delivery service — for a $19.99 surcharge — for select footwear products purchased on its Canadian site shoeme.ca as late as 4 p.m.

The service debuted in Vancouver and Toronto, with plans to expand the offering to Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal and Ottawa by year's end.

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Lauren La Rose, The Canadian Press