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Vancouver IPO hopeful Shoes.com cuts staff, hires U.S. executive

Shoes.com co-founder and CEO Roger Hardy is shown in an undated handout photo. The Vancouver-based online footwear and apparel retailer has announced the acquisition of U.S.-based lifestyle accessories brand Richer Poorer, as well as plans to open its first bricks-and-mortar location in Toronto later this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Shoes.com, Peter Holst

One of Canada's leading tech IPO candidates, online merchant Shoes.com, has recruited a high-profile U.S. e-commerce executive while letting go a rash of employees.

The Vancouver-based company will announce Thursday that it has hired Bradley Wilson, who ran the Travelocity business for Expedia Inc., as president. Mr. Wilson, who will work out of Shoes.com's offices in Seattle, previously worked as chief marketing officer of Travelocity and before that was senior vice-president with food and drug e-commerce retailer Nutrisystem, Inc. Both Expedia and Nutrisystem are publicly listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

"He's taken a $250-million [U.S.] company to a billion dollars a couple of times," said Shoes.com chief executive officer Roger Hardy, who has handed his president's title to his new recruit in order to focus on strategy and finance. "That's what's exciting."

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"I am thrilled to lock arms with the forward-thinking team that's been squarely focused on marrying technology and commerce," Mr. Wilson said in a statement. "There is considerable opportunity ahead ... I have jumped in, feet first."

Mr. Hardy said the new president's mandate "is to focus on serving customers and growing the business by focusing on the best customers. We think we have a billion-dollar opportunity." Mr. Hardy, who previously ran publicly-traded online eye wear merchant Coastal Contacts – selling it to Essilor International for $430-million (Canadian) in 2014 – said Wal-Mart's recent $3-billion (U.S.) purchase of online retailer Jet.com "tells you people are going out and creating value [in e-commerce] and traditional retailers are looking for scale online. That's our hypothesis."

Mr. Hardy has previously said there is much room for growth in the $80-billion footwear market, as barely 10 per cent of shoes are sold online.

Shoes.com started in 2012 as Shoeme.ca, which former Coastal employee Sean Clark (now chief revenue officer) started when online shoe retailer Zappos pulled out of the Canadian market. Mr. Hardy was an early investor and then joined shortly as CEO after selling Coastal, bulking up the company with former members of his Coastal management team and raising tens of millions of dollars to fund acquisitions across North America, including the U.S. retailer that operated the Shoes.com website.

Shoes.com had more than $200-million in revenue last year and says it has more than eight million customers in North America, offering more than 500 brands. It has also opened "pop-up" bricks-and-mortar stores in Vancouver and Toronto.

At the same time, Mr. Hardy said, "when you're a growth company you're looking to prune and optimize and become more efficient ... we probably had a few too many" employees. Sources familiar with the company, as well as postings and updates on social media sites Glassdoor and LinkedIn, suggest the company parted ways with dozens of employees between offices in Vancouver, Seattle and Burnaby, B.C., in recent weeks. Mr. Hardy said the company had cut about 10 per cent of employees in the Vancouver area but didn't provide an exact number of jobs that had been affected.

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About the Author

Sean Silcoff joined The Globe and Mail in January, 2012, following an 18-year-career in journalism and communications. He previously worked as a columnist and Montreal correspondent for the National Post and as a staff writer at Canadian Business Magazine, where he was project co-ordinator of the magazine's inaugural Rich 100 list. More

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