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Ingledew’s Celebrates 100 Years of Family Success

Ingledew’s treats its customers and brand partners like one of its very own

In 1915, William Wright Ingledew quietly opened a shoe shop at the corner of West Georgia and Granville streets and ran it based on the simple tenets of quality footwear, family values and exceptional service. A century later, Ingledew’s has earned a reputation for selling only the highest-grade footwear, including internationally recognized brands like Stuart Weitzman, Mephisto, Magnanni and Drydock. Embracing its “family takes care of family” philosophy, the Ingledew’s marketing strategies and business decisions support not only the store, but also the companies represented on its shelves—and as a result, customers have come to regard Ingledew’s as an accessible mecca in which to find that most lucrative of purchases: the perfect shoes for you.

“Shoes are one of the most important components to any person’s wardrobe,” says Bill Ingledew, CEO. “If your feet are killing you, your entire day is affected. Not only that, you’re doing serious long-term damage to your body.” These concerns are why the company aims to outfit each customer with footwear that appeases individual tastes, yet remains comfortable and durable.

The business model is simple. First, the store only sells “relevant fashion”: on-trend footwear suited to busy clients who work and run households. Second, all product is top-quality with no exception. Finally, every customer receives a tailored experience. “Everyone who walks through our doors is encouraged to get both feet measured so the team can suggest suitable styles,” explains Ingledew. “We’re also honest: we’ll advise clients against buying a certain pair of shoes if we know they’re not a good fit.”

Though these mandates are clearly influenced by William Wright Ingledew’s way of doing business 100 years ago, the company doesn’t shy away from new technology. Ingledew’s was the first retailer in Canada to stock Rockport—which invented built-in sport technology for shoes—and is closely aligned with ECCO, pioneers in the development of direct injection technology. “We’re very much aware of the latest innovations in footwear,” says Ingledew. “But we only choose brands that are relevant to our customer base.”

Brand selection is an intensive, thoughtful process that Ingledew oversees personally, travelling across Europe in search of new wares to add to the family. “Sourcing retail isn’t like going into a grocery store and picking something off the shelf,” explains Ingledew. “Some shoemakers show exciting concepts that look promising, and sales take off in-store. Other times it doesn’t pan out, and we have to make the difficult decision to stop carrying that product.”

But many brands have remained in the Ingledew’s family for years, even decades. Magnanni, for example, is similarly committed to high-grade production methods and family values (case in point: all six of founder Pascual Blanco Martinez’s children run the company). A long-time partner of Ingledew’s—nearly 20 years—Magnanni also recognizes the importance of keeping on top of current trends and gives designers free rein to add off-the-cuff finishes to its products. “We were the first company in North America to carry Magnanni,” says Ingledew. “The shoes are beautiful, functional and truly one-of-a-kind.”

Other brands are trendier and often stunningly Instagram-worthy. One notable example is high-end trendsetter Stuart Weitzman. “We have great respect for Ingledew’s,” says Douglas Mossey, Stuart Weitzman. “The company was one of our first Canadian customers, and remains a key client.” And the admiration goes both ways. “Stuart makes incredibly fashionable shoes, and insists each one is perfectly made,” says Ingledew.

“The emphasis Ingledew’s places on the in-store experience resonates with our own values,” says Greg Nicoghosian, Mephisto Canada. Founded in France in 1965, Mephisto incorporates traditional methods of shoemaking, but is also cognizant that the retail landscape is changing. “The shoe business is very different from when we first opened, and we’re turning more of our attention toward social media and establishing an online presence,” Nicoghosian acknowledges. “But no amount of clever marketing can create the trust customers place in a company that consistently produces quality product and offers memorable service.”

“We are committed to the in-store experience, and that’s not something that translates well to online shopping,” says Ingledew. Though the company is developing a new retail website, it will continue to invite consumers into the store for that customized shoe-shopping experience.

“At the end of the day, Ingledew’s is a family business, and I like to think the many people who work here, the brands we carry and our clients, are part of our family, too,” says Ingledew. If there’s any secret to Ingledew’s success, it’s that they take care of family.