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Roots Ltd. or Roots Canada (doing business as Roots) is a publicly held Canadian brand that sells apparel, leather bags, small leather goods, footwear, active athletic wear, and home furnishings. The company was founded in 1973 by Michael Budman and Don Green. In 2015, Roots was sold to Searchlight Capital Partners LP, an American investment firm.
|Founded||Toronto, Ontario, Canada (1973 )|
|Founders||Michael Budman and Don Green|
Number of locations
|120 Canadian and American stores; 65 locations in Asia|
|Canada, United States, Asia|
|Meghan Roach Chief executive officer|
|Products||Apparel, leather goods, active athletic wear, yoga wear, accessories, home furnishings|
|Owner||Searchlight Capital Partners (majority stake) |
Budman & Green (minority stake)
Number of employees
|2,000 in Canada|
Their design centre and leather factory are in Toronto, Ontario. Roots employs 2,000 people in Canada. Roots factories exist globally and the factories are not disclosed by the parent company. As of May 2013[update], Roots was operating 210 stores in Canada.
Roots started using the beaver logo in 1985 with the launch of their athletic brand. The logo was designed in the 1970s and features the illustration by Heather Cooper with the company name below it set in the Cooper font, created by Oswald Cooper in 1919.
In 1973, Michael Budman and Don Green founded Roots, initially a footwear company that sold negative-heel shoes, before expanding their products. The Kowalewski family and their family business, the Boa Shoe Company, were the first makers of Budman's and Green's negative-heel shoes, which became Roots' defining product. In August 1973, Roots opened its first store on Yonge St. near the Rosedale subway station in Toronto. A couple of months later, Roots bought the Upin and Ipin Company and opened their own leather factory. By the end of the year, Roots had stores in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and a few locations in the U.S.
Roots' negative-heel shoes competed with similar shoes sold by Kalsø Earth Shoe, which had first entered the North American market in 1970. Experts expressed varying opinions on whether negative-heel shoes were good or bad for one's feet.
As the demand for Roots' negative-heel shoes continued, the Roots factory expanded. By the fall of 1975, the factory that had made only 30 pairs of shoes a day was making more than 2,000. Later that year, Roots decided to experiment with casual apparel.
By 1977, Roots had expanded to 65 retail outlets across North America and Europe, and 250 employees. Roots then began the transition from making negative-heel shoes to making footwear with a wedge sole and also introduced classic handbags. The company began wholesaling bags, footwear, belts, and leather jackets to Canadian retailers like Eaton’s and Holt Renfrew, and major U.S. retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, and Nordstrom. Roots continued to expand its product line by introducing Roots Design in 1979, their first line of men’s tailored clothing. This started with leather jackets that were produced in a small building in Port Credit, Mississauga.
By the end of 1980, with the closing of many stores in the U.S. and Europe, Roots began to expand in Canada. The expansion ushered in the manufacturing of T-shirts and sweatshirts on a small scale, and the creation of the brand’s label Beaver Canoe, a joint venture canoe building operation with Camp Tamakwa’s co-founder Omer Stringer. Clothing and outdoor items were then created under the Beaver Canoe brand in 1983. Two years later, Roots launched Roots Beaver Athletics (RBA) with the beaver logo and by the early nineties, the logo had appeared on more than a million garments.
Roots began to expand in Asia in 1993, starting with two stores in Japan, where Negative Heel Shoes had a second life and continued to expand throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Although Roots stores have closed in areas of Asia, Roots in Taiwan and China began to expand in the 2000s. Over the last few years, these stores have expanded their product offering to include apparel as well as leather goods, kids apparel, and home furnishings. Roots Taiwan launched a separate website in 2011. As of May 2013, Roots had 75 retail outlets in Taiwan and 16 in China but with plans for full closure.
In 2001, the company was involved with the creation of a new Canadian discount airline, Roots Air, which operated Airbus A320 and Boeing 727-200 jetliners in scheduled passenger service. However, the airline shut down in the same year.
Roots contributed to the Olympic games in 1976, providing 200 quilted “Puff” boots to the Canadian Team at the Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria. In 1988, Roots provided Jamaica’s Olympic bobsled team with custom made jackets. The story was made famous by the 1993 hit movie Cool Runnings starring John Candy wearing a Roots jacket. Roots created a special retail collection of clothes in honour of the 1994 Canadian Olympic team, under the banner "Roots Salutes the Canadian Olympic Team". Roots designed a jacket for the Norwegian skier and Olympic Gold Medalist Stein Eriksen for the Olympic Games in Lillehammer in 1994.
In 1998, Roots began its formal epic games involvement, outfitting the Canadian team at the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. The outfit's most popular item was the red “poorboy” cap (or poor boy cap) worn backwards, which were seen on celebrities such as Prince William and P. Diddy. Roots at one point sold 100,000 of these berets a day at $19.95 USD a piece, eventually selling over half a million.
Roots went on to be the official gamer for members of the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Teams from 2000 to 2004, and was the official outfitter for the Canadian Speed Skating Team in 2006. Roots outfitted the United States Olympic and Paralympic Teams in 2002, 2004, and 2006. Other teams Roots outfitted include the British Olympic Team (2002, 2004), and the Barbados Olympic Team (2004).
In 2005, Roots was outbid on the Canadian Olympic contract by the Hudson's Bay Company (sold through The Bay and Zellers), and in 2008 the USOC replaced Roots with Polo Ralph Lauren. The USOC had a disagreement with Roots over the direction of the athletes' uniforms, but it is also suggested Roots did not want its brand to be involved with the 2008 Summer Olympics which saw much political controversy over human rights.
Roots has 120 stores in North America, including five flagship stores in Canada in Toronto (Bloor St., The Eaton Centre, and Yorkdale Shopping Centre), Vancouver (on Robson St.), and Montreal (Centreville). The large two-story Bloor St. location, which was known for holding many events, recently downsized to a new location on the same street. Other notable locations include Rosedale in Toronto, Chinook and West Edmonton Mall in Alberta. In 2013, Roots opened locations in Montreal (Westmount), Niagara Falls (Spring Garden).
Recent expansions and improvement to their retail stores have brought about "enhanced experience stores" which offer guests the additional services of customizing their leather orders with a range of 16 available bag styles or custom award jackets (varsity jackets) or personalizing their Salt and Pepper sweatsuits with various patches. This can be found in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.
Jim Gabel had joined in February 2016 as the President of Roots Canada. He left the company in January 2020. In May 2020, the board of directors appointed Meghan Roach as Chief Executive Officer.
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