The Stan’s Fit for Your Feet retail chain has been in operation for more than 70 years. But last month, the company celebrated two new landmarks in its long history.
The independent footwear retailer announced its first acquisition in late June, purchasing the 104-year-old shoe store Waxberg’s Walk Shoppe in Niles, Ill., for an undisclosed amount. The deal with Waxberg’s, which is located in a suburb of the Greater Chicago area, also marks the first time Stan’s Fit for Your Feet has ventured beyond the Milwaukee area.
Jim Sajdak, president of Stan’s Fit for Your Feet, told FN, “Today you have to look at growing your business and expanding your business wisely when you have the opportunity.”
He recalled that the deal came about when Ron Waxberg, the store’s owner, approached him about an acquisition. “I think the timing in his career was such that he wanted to move on to other parts of his life and wanted to make sure that his business was in good hands,” said Sajdak. “The synergy between both of our operations and the way we approach things is very similar. So it was a natural situation for him and a really great opportunity for us.”
Even though it’s under new ownership, Waxberg’s Walk Shoppe will continue to do business under its own name. That brings the total number of retail banners under the Sajdak family to four. In addition to three Stan’s Fit for Your Feet locations, the Sajdaks also own and operate two New Balance locations and a Vionic store in Milwaukee.
To manage the growing enterprise, Jim Sajdak has plenty of help from his four adult children, who are all active in the business and have earned their certified pedorthist credentials. Andy is the director of operations; David is director of merchandising; Megan is director of marketing; and Ben is director of community outreach.
Here, the family patriarch talks with FN about future dealmaking, current business trends and big challenges.
After completing your first acquisition, could we expect to see more deals by the Sajdaks?
Jim Sajdak: “I think any good retailer today has to keep their eyes open for acquisitions and good expansion opportunities. But it has to be the right fit — no pun intended — and the right timing. Especially in today’s retail and economic environment, you have to be very cautious in your moves, you have to be very strategic. But if you want to be a growing firm, you have to be flexible enough to react to these opportunities.”
What would you look for in a potential acquisition?
JS: “I’m not sure that I have a list put together in my head, but I would say you have to look at the structure of the business, the heritage, the profitability, the location, the merchandise and makeup of the business. I think those are all important factors.”
How is your business faring right now?
JS: “It’s certainly improved since the shutdowns and is constantly getting better, despite the supply chain. And despite all the chatter of an economic turndown, we have a solid business. We provide the brands that people want, and we certainly provide the service that is hard for people to find. I’m grateful that we’ve had that niche.”
What categories are performing the best?
JS: “Athletic and casual shoes continue to be strong, [as well as] comfort shoes that serve a need. You know, people always have hurt or tired feet, whether there’s a recession or there’s boom times. So any product that will accommodate people’s lifestyles and footwear needs, those are strong categories for us.”
Are you seeing any changes in terms of buying trends?
JS: “As people go back to work and tiptoe into events and travel and celebration, the demand for dress shoes is slowly coming back. I think women, especially, have looked at their wardrobes and are seeing shoes that have been sitting there for two, three years and they’re going, ‘Oh, I need to refresh for a wedding or a graduation.’ We’re starting to see that.”
What is your overall outlook for independent retail?
JS: “I think there are really great opportunities for growth and there’s great product, despite supply chain issues. But the staffing is one of our major challenges right now.”
What issues are you facing with staffing?
JS: “We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve had a lot of long timers, career salespeople who have been with us for many, many years. And as they retire, it’s harder to replace them. They showed up and gave you every ounce of their energy, and when you lose that, it creates a crater. And I think it’s a very fickle market out there right now. This week alone, we had eight interviews lined up and two showed up. It’s a very common thing. I’ve never seen anything like this. And hiring is tough, especially in our channel. We’re a very high-tough business. We take our time with our customers, which is our strength and our unique point of difference. So we have to find a way to make that continue, but I don’t have the answer yet.”