While a lot of brick-and-mortar shoe retailers nationwide have been paring down door counts or checking out entirely, the 102-year-old Beck’s Shoes, based in Campbell, CA, has been doing quite the opposite. Since 2019, the specialty comfort and work chain has acquired five family-owned businesses, totaling seven locations, and CEO Adam Beck and COO Julia Beck-Gomez are on the hunt for more in the western U.S.
The execs see it as a win-win strategy. For Beck’s, now totaling 17 locations and four mobile trucks, increasing its buying might is critical to succeeding in today’s consolidated industry landscape, and for sellers this is a seamless and likely more profitable exit strategy than liquidation, as well as a way for their businesses to live on (under the Beck’s Shoes banner) in their respective communities.
“Julia and I feel there are dozens of retailers without a succession plan, and we intend on helping any and all of them carry on their amazing legacies through us,” Beck says. “The more successes we have with this strategy, I think the demand will grow as they see in us some of the same passion they had.”
To date, Beck’s has acquired Don’s Shoes in Yuba, CA, Bill’s Shoes in Berkeley, CA, Santa Rosa Shoes in Santa Rosa, CA, the 105-year-old Johnson’s Shoes, a four-door chain in central California, and Hy Step in Medford, OR. “We are currently in talks with a half a dozen retailers looking to have us carry on their legacy through Beck’s,” Beck says. “Not all may be a fit, but we’re very upfront with them before wasting anyone’s time.”
The prospective acquisitions have to check all the boxes, says Beck-Gomez. “They’ve got to be the right fit for us: family-owned, sit-and-fit retailers that have put their heart and souls into these businesses and their communities,” she says. “That’s what we’re after: preserving this type of multi-generational retail that we’ve grown up with and love.” The exec adds that the acquisitions can serve as a much-needed shot in the arm for these stores. “These people were tapering down and getting ready to retire, whereas we bring in new energy and elevate what was already there,” she says, noting that retaining existing employee talent is a goal. “We’re doing our best to exceed their customers’ expectations and hopefully create new ones with our engagement, experience and product mix.”
The fifth-generation shoe execs are firm believers in the future viability of sit-and-fit retailing—done the Beck’s Shoes way. For starters, Beck notes it can be a very lucrative business model. “Consumers are in need of sit-and-fit retailers with an amazing selection, an exceptional experience and human connection, especially post-Covid,” he says, noting each location features an average of 800-plus SKUs on display with 20 percent of core inventory backed up two to four deep in core sizes and colors. “We very much believe that 80 percent of your top line is created by 20 percent of your inventory.”
Beyond the retailing basics, the duo firmly believes there is a place for passionate independents in today’s landscape. “I always compare grandmother’s recipe for chocolate chip cookies to business in general: It might take years, if not a lifetime, to get something right, but when you do, you have something delicious,” Beck says. In fact, the cousins have been working on this retail recipe for several years now. “The way we buy and manage our inventory, our merchandising talents and how we take care of our employees enables us to provide an amazing customer experience,” he says. “Our processes and efficiencies internally are also ready for this type of expansion.”
There is another motivating factor behind Beck’s Shoes’ acquisition efforts: namely, providing for its growing family of employees. “A lot of our employees started working for us before they had families of their own, and now they are married with kids,” Beck says. “Our motivation is to help provide more opportunities for them and their families, and we’ll be just as passionate about any new location and the team that comes with it. We’re excited to invite them into our culture and family.”