Originally called the Great Canadian Moccasin Company, SoftMoc started out in 1990 with a single location in the Toronto Eaton Centre. At the time, the company sold nothing but moccasins, a shoe with a rich history and dating back to Canada’s indigenous people. SoftMoc wasn’t a big enough brand to need a storefront and sold the moccasins from a small kiosk in the shopping centre.
Now in its 25th year of business, SoftMoc has over 105 locations across Canada and attributes its steady growth to the company’s commitment to the original values it started out with in 1990.
We caught up with Jeffery Chiasson, CFO at SoftMoc, who shared with us some information on how this seemingly small commitment to values has brought the company nationwide appeal.
How did SoftMoc start out?
The Great Canadian Moccasin Company experienced great success with the kiosk in the Eaton Centre. After a few years, the company moved to a formal storefront and changed its name to SoftMoc. As we expanded to accommodate a broader range of footwear, we wanted to be sure that the company name communicated this to our customers, without completely losing our roots. We wanted people to know that “Hey, we are a little more than moccasins” now.
What has been key to SoftMoc‘s ongoing success?
We think that staying true to the values that have “brought you to the party” so-to-speak has been an essential part of SoftMoc’s success. We want to be sure that people always know who we are and what we stand for – a great product, at a great price, with great service; this is what SoftMoc has always meant to our customers.
Now with stores across Canada, we are more broadly known as Canada’s family comfort shoe store. Being Canadian has also been an integral part of our brand. We have continued to be a lean organization throughout our continued expansion. From a single kiosk in Toronto, to having over 100 stores, we have maintained a very small, tight-knit office staff. There are only about 15 people in the headquarters of the company, and we don’t see the need to add more. The staff we have is comprised of experts in their fields and experts within the company. We like to think that we work smart by keeping key employees on board rather than simply growing the office just because the company grows. The commitment and expertise that our employees demonstrate only further contributes to our ongoing success.
What do you think sets you apart from other shoe retailers?
We strive to do it all. We don’t dabble in cheap products. We aren’t concerned about offering the low-end shoes or the cheapest shoes out there. SoftMoc continues to focus on delivering a great product and having great people in place to back the products up.
What were some lessons you learned along the road to success?
Stay true to your beliefs, stay true to the values that established the brand and don’t stray from them once you experience success. Success often brings more opportunity, and chasing your dreams can seem quite appealing. Our customers have known that regardless of our growth, we remain committed to quality in our products and quality in our service. They can expect the same great products that we have always delivered.
We have also learned the value in building long-term business partnerships with experts such as product suppliers, service providers and financial services professionals. Consider, for instance, that a bank helps small businesses with the financial aspects associated with growth and nationwide expansion. They are familiar with the ins and outs of such growth and can provide you with a great deal of support to ease the transition.
Those types of partners are experts in their field and happy to help, so don’t be afraid to seek advice and ask for guidance when you need it.
What long-term partnerships do you credit with providing you such support?
In addition to our bank, as described above, payment processing was something that we needed to establish early on in the company. Closing a sale should be the simplest part of a sale and that demands a reliable, fast payment processing solution. One of the worst things that can happen in sales is to spend a great deal of time helping a customer and then there are issues with the payment processing system in the last few moments of the sales process.
RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) recommended we look into Moneris for this portion of our business, and we’ve been with them for many years.
What we looked for was a payment processor that could understand us as a small business to enable that part of the transaction was easy and comfortable for the customer. Payment processing needs to have the flexibility to help your business during the growth stages as well, which Moneris was more than able to support. This is a great example of a long-term partnership that really helped us along the path to being a nationwide shoe company. Moneris gave us the flexibility and expertise to properly service the number of stores we have, no matter where they are located. Being able to have the same level of service regardless of geographical location is a true benefit.
"Believe it or not, SoftMoc was among the first to sell shoes online in 1996 when the whole idea of online selling was still very new."
When we signed on with Moneris, accepting debit and credit cards became much more seamless. In online sales, there is no contact with the customers, so we wanted to be sure we got the actual transaction portion right- Moneris assures us of that with every purchase.
What advice would you give to other small businesses that are looking to grow?
I have already stressed the importance of staying true to core values and leveraging your partners. Another great bit of advice is to pay attention to the details of the business.
At SoftMoc we strive to do it all. We focus on delivering a quality product, great customer service, a supportive and positive work environment for employees and great relationships with suppliers. It’s a lot of work to pay attention to every part of your business at all times, but it pays off. As I always say – retail is detail!
Whether you run a business with one location, or you are looking to expand across Canada, Moneris will partner with you to ensure your expansion is seamless. Click here to have a sales consultant contact you to discuss our payment solutions with you. Or call us directly at 1-888-321-9124.