Brown Shoe Co. Sells Shoes.com Web Business to Shoeme

Brown Shoe Co., owner of the Famous Footwear retail chain, sold its Shoes.com online division to a closely held Seattle company pushing into a market led by Amazon.com Inc. and Foot Locker Inc.

Shoeme, parent of OnlineShoes.com and Shoeme.ca, is purchasing Shoes.com for an undisclosed price, the companies said in separate statements today. The Web domain name shoes.com alone is worth $630,000, according to siteprice.org, based on search-engine visibility and traffic.

Shoeme Chief Executive Officer Roger Hardy has been working to move into footwear retailing on the Web. After selling Vancouver-based Coastal Contacts Inc., for C$430 million ($370 million) earlier this year to French eyeglass-lens maker Essilor International SA, he has been pumping the proceeds into the online shoe business, starting with the July acquisitions of OnlineShoes.com and Shoeme.ca.

“Coastal Contacts was one of the biggest e-commerce success stories to come out of Canada, if not the biggest,” said Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. “Hardy is a very smart guy.”

When Shoes.com is added to his portfolio of footwear sites, the combined companies will generate 2015 sales of about $315 million, with 75 percent of that in the U.S., Hardy said in an interview.

Online shoe sales in the U.S. will reach $10 billion this year, according to research firm IbisWorld. Market leaders include Amazon, which purchased the shoe site Zappos.com in 2009 for $1.19 billion, and Foot Locker. The market is fragmented, with the top companies controlling less than 25 percent of the market, according to IbisWorld. That means there is room for new companies to compete.

Brown Shoe, based in St. Louis, has been closing stores in recent years to boost profits. The company has more than 1,200 stores and generated sales of $2.51 billion in its latest fiscal year, mostly in the U.S.

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