Beginning as a sock manufacturer in the 1940s, over the years TT Group grew as a producer and marketer of a range of footwear products, including shoes, boots, and slippers. Combining comfort and value, TT Group products are known for their great feel and affordability.
One of few remaining North American shoe manufacturers, TT Group has distribution channels in both Canada and the United States, particularly an American market that has a high demand for “Made in Canada” winter boots. In 1988, the company expanded its market to become a major importer of shoes, something it has continued to do to this day.
“We’ve rejigged into a marketing organization rather than a manufacturing organization, and it has been a change of mindset,” Paul Perivolaris, Vice-President of TT Group, described the situation to The Canadian Business Journal. “We’re now remarketing our brand to make it more fun, make it more young, and we’re continuing to make people aware of our brand because having a name brand that everyone knows is our biggest asset.”
Brand marketing has emerged as a major selling point in keeping TT Group relevant in a North American shoe manufacturing market that has dwindled over the years. Nevertheless, the company has established major import and distribution lines to ensure its success moving forward.
TT Group products are supplied to major conglomerates like Sears and Walmart and, even more so in Canada, the company is soon hoping to establish a supplier relationship with Target, coming to Canada in 2013 as a replacement of Zellers, formerly a major account of TT Group.
“Zellers was one of our biggest retailers, and there is a lull with that part of our business disappearing,” Perivolaris said. “We’ve met with Target, which is a great company, and we’re hoping that by the time they’re up and running they’ll start buying a little bit from us as well, and that’s our goal.
“Walmart has also helped out a lot, as they recognize the strength of our brand and they have picked up more orders with us, which has been great. They are a great company to work with.”
There is surely a focus on establishing a similar relationship with Target, once the retailer has its operations fully implemented in the Canadian marketplace. Perivolaris detailed, “Target is quite a fashionable company and we’re trying to get a lot more fashionable, so we’re really hoping we can partner; we’re putting a lot of effort into it. We’d certainly be willing to focus a lot of our marketing in combination with Target to get our brand image a little more fashionable as well.”
Aside from the big players in the market, TT Group has also established close ties with a number of independent and smaller shops that support the TT Group brand and its Made in Canada niche. The company describes its biggest brand, Tender Tootsies, as synonymous with slippers as Kleenex is with tissues.
Affiliated with Tootsies Family Shoe Market, this relationship provides a retail format for TT Group, with its products typically accounting for 50 per cent of store inventories. Allowing a direct avenue to the consumer, this opportunity also gives the company an opportunity to test products before hitting the major retailers. As Perivolaris summarized, “We can’t always rely on the buyers seeing things our way, so we use retail outlets to test our theories and then bring those theories to the Sears’ and Walmarts of the world.”
Already with a footprint, so to speak, in the United States, it’s only natural for TT Group to have the lucrative United States market on its radar. Moving forward, the goal is to solidify and re-establish its Canadian operations, and then pursue the American shoe market with a solid proven model.
“We own the name and already some distribution in the United States, but not in the same mid- to low-end marketplaces that we dominate in Canada. Right now, we’re concentrating on strengthening our Canadian brand with our fun, new image, and perfecting it before we go to the United States,” Perivolaris concluded. “The U.S. is still an untapped market and it’s the most logical place for us to go.”