In this week’s issue of Footwear News, we take a deep dive into the Aldo Group’s business and the Montreal-based shoe company’s aggressive plans for the future. Under new CEO Patrik Frisk, the vertical retailer is launching major international growth initiatives and prepping high-tech store updates that are expected to double the size of the business in the next five years. (It also just launched a buzzy ad campaign today starring cool, creative tastemakers.)
These are ambitious moves for the privately held company, which now has nearly 2,000 store locations and has been estimated to be worth $2 billion. Over the years, it’s been quietly growing that empire — so quietly, in fact, that many people know little about the organization and its capabilities.
For those Aldo novices out there, here are the five key things you might like to know about this fast-fashion retailer.
1. There is an Aldo and he’s still on the clock.
Aldo Bensadoun founded his retail company in 1972 as a footwear concession in the Le Chateau stores and opened the first standalone shop in 1978. He remains chairman of the company and still has a hand in the product design and development, but has handed off some of the day-to-day duties to his sons, David and Douglas Bensadoun, as well as the company’s CEO. “Mr. Bensadoun is 76 years old, and he more or less works the same hours I do,” said Frisk. “He pushes 11-, 12-hour days most days. He’s a 24/7 kind of guy.”
2. It has stores in 95 countries and counting.
Norman Jaskolka, head of the Aldo Group International division, has been logging frequent-flyer miles since 2001, developing franchise agreements with partners across the globe. He said its business is particularly strong in the Middle East, Latin America and parts of Europe, but there is room for more growth. To that end, Aldo is now looking for owned retail, online and wholesale opportunities abroad, which should open up key markets like Brazil and Japan that have strict trade regulations.
3. It has a fondness for technology.
Aldo jumped on the e-commerce bandwagon early on, and now the retailer is infusing that same digital prowess in its stores. This fall, the company will launch a new consumer-facing technology in 22 Aldo doors in the U.S. and Canada, with plans to roll it out worldwide in 2016. While he was mum on specifics, David Bensadoun, president of Aldo Group North America, said, “We don’t have the outfit for a woman to try on as she’s looking for shoes. So a big part of our technology will be to help a woman choose shoes that match.”
4. Fast-fashion is what it does — really really fast.
With the help of its new CEO, who was previously at manufacturing behemoth VF Corp., Aldo has devised a new go-to-market strategy that can turn out product faster than ever. Chief Creative Officer Douglas Bensadoun estimated that the company can now deliver merchandise in less than a year — and in some cases within three months — to flagships around the world. Currently, the company introduces new product in its stores every month.
5. Corporate culture is one of its most valued assets.
At the company’s headquarters on the outskirts of Montreal, the space is covered wall to wall with more than 250 pieces of artwork by established and local artists. “In such a company like ours, it’s important to create an atmosphere of creativity and free thinking,” said Aldo Bensadoun. The founder and namesake also planted an olive tree in the center of the main atrium to encourage a peaceful environment and pay homage to his family’s Mediterranean origins. “You need to think of your roots and never forget where you come from,” he said.