Sterling steps out of Toronto’s retail scene

Toronto shoppers will have fewer places to look for cheap-chic shoes in the months ahead, as Sterling Shoes exits the city’s retail scene.

Struggling footwear company Sterling Shoes LP, which owns five chains: Sterling Shoes, Shoe Warehouse, Joneve, Gia, and Freedman, has announced that it’s closing 53 stores across the country.

The Vancouver-based retailer has been operating under court protection from creditors since October. Like many retailers, it was hit by declining sales during the economic downturn, which came at a particularly vulnerable time for Sterling, as it had expanded aggressively in the three years leading up to the recession.

The Sterling Shoes chain, which has the biggest presence in the GTA of all the banners, is exiting Ontario entirely. It’s closing half of its 55 stores, leaving it with 28 once the restructuring is complete.

That means all of Sterling’s GTA locations will close. This includes locations in:

  • Toronto Eaton Centre
  • Richmond Adelaide Centre
  • Dufferin Mall
  • Scarborough Town Centre
  • Oshawa Centre
  • Square One Shopping Centre, Mississauga
  • Erin Mills Town Centre, Mississauga
  • Markville Shopping Centre, Markham
  • Lime Ridge Mall, Hamilton
  • Upper Canada Mall, Newmarket
  • Promenade Mall, Thornhill
  • Hillcrest Mall, Richmond Hill
  • Bramalea City Centre, Brampton

Most of the remaining Sterling Shoes stores are in Alberta and B.C., along with a couple in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Meanwhile, the company’s Joneve and Gia chains are being shut down entirely, while its Freedman and Shoe Warehouse banners are only shrinking slightly.

These four banners have less of a presence in the GTA. The ones closing include:

  • Sherway Gardens (Joneve)
  • Bramalea City Centre (Joneve)
  • Hillcrest Mall (Freedman)
  • Oakville Place (Freedman)

Freedman will no longer have any GTA stores, but all of Shoe Warehouse’s Ontario locations will continue to operate as usual. The company will have a total of 105 stores once the restructuring is complete.

Of all the banners, I’m most familiar with Sterling – a destination for trendy, affordable shoes where I’ve stumbled upon a good find once or twice. It’s too bad the stores are closing, but I can’t say I’m too surprised.

It’s a crowded market, with chains like Aldo, Spring, Stepss and The Shoe Company competing for the same shoppers. So, it’s important for retailers to stand out in order to survive – and perhaps Sterling didn’t shine as bright as it should have.

What’s the silver (or, ahem, sterling)  lining? As the stores begin to wind down their operations, shoppers will have a chance to score some pretty great deals on shoes, to the tune of up to 50% off all merchandise. Keep in mind, though, that anything you buy is final sale.

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Filed under Fashion, Store Closures

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