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Originally published July 15, 2014 at 12:02 AM | Page modified July 16, 2014 at 7:07 AM

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Canadian buys Seattle-based OnlineShoes.com

Investor Roger Hardy praised the company, an early Internet retailer, for its talent.


Seattle Times business reporter

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Canadian investor Roger Hardy has acquired Seattle-based OnlineShoes.com and will take over as CEO.

Hardy, chairman of Hardy Capital, a Vancouver-based merchant bank, bought OnlineShoes.com for an undisclosed amount in a deal completed Friday. OnlineShoes.com, founded in 1996 by Dan Gerler, was one of the first Internet-based shoe retailers. Hardy said OnlineShoes’ history and returning customer base intrigued him.

“It has got really stable and almost annuity-based customers that come back on very regular basis,” he said. “Our plan is to continue that.”

Gerler remains at OnlineShoes as an adviser.

Hardy is also taking over as CEO of Canadian online shoe store ShoeMe.ca.

Hardy Capital is an investor in ShoeMe, and Hardy will run both companies and plans to start integrating them.

In 2013, OnlineShoes brought in $140 million in revenue, and Hardy said ShoeMe has grown about 300 percent a year for the past few years.

Both companies are profitable and together will have more than 250 employees in the U.S. and Canada. For now, Hardy said both companies will continue to operate under their own names and brands.

OnlineShoes will remain based in Seattle, and there will be no layoffs or personnel changes, Hardy said.

“We are really buying the business because it has great people,” Hardy said. “You got tier-one talent in this city (Seattle) — talent that is hard to get in other cities.”

In the past, OnlineShoes had limited international reach.

“(The new ownership) immediately provides us with a partner in Canada,” said Bob Barton, president and chief financial officer of OnlineShoes. “It adds a certain element of further global expertise, as we think about going beyond the U.S. and Canada.”

Barton said OnlineShoes’ customers will not notice a difference at first, but he said he hopes to offer new options for customers and improve the shopping experience.

Together, OnlineShoes and ShoeMe offer more than 350 footwear brands and are estimated to have 1.5 million customers this year.

Hardy founded Coastal Contacts, an online eyeglass and contact store, which was bought in February by French eyeglass lens maker Essilor for $387 million.

Hardy said he is still looking at other acquisitions and opportunities to roll into OnlineShoes.com.

“The first chapter of the business is kind of closing,” Hardy said, “but we’ve got some growth ideas and expansion ideas for Chapter 2.”

Brandon Brown: 206-464-2164 or brbrown@seattletimes.com



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