Roots Canada Sells Majority Stake: A Look at Their Hits

Roots Canada, the iconic fashion company, announced this week it has sold a majority stake to the private investment firm Searchlight Capital Partners.

The retailer known for its leather goods, athletic wear, recognizable beaver logo and taking inspiration from the great Canadian outdoors was founded in 1973 by Michael Budman and Don Green.

The duo will stay on with the company as it enters this new era as Searchlight Capital Partners seek to expand the retailer globally.

Currently, there are 245 Roots stores, mostly in Canada, China and Taiwan, and five locations in the U.S.

We chronicle some of the hits of this duly proud Canadian company throughout the years.

1. THE SHOE THAT KICK-STARTED THE ROOTS JOURNEY
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When Budman and Green launched the company back in 1973, before selling the wide range of fashion goods they do today, it was a single product that made their store (located on Yonge Street) an instant hit – the Negative Heel Shoe. They were producing about 1,200 pairs of these leather shoes a day to keep up with demand.

2. TOTE AND CARRY
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By 1976, the company started to produce leather bags. Today, leather bags are a major part of the Roots’ merchandising mix and have become sought-after accessories. And in keeping with the company’s ethos, the Genuine Leather products are still manufactured in Toronto.

3. THE BEGINNING OF THE BEAVER

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The Roots co-owners have known each other from their teenage years living in Detroit and spent their summers together at Camp Tamakwa in Ontario’s Algonquin Park. (The camp boasts an impressive alumni, including federal judges, a U.S. senator, an astronaut and actors Chevy Chase and the late Gilda Radner.)

These summer experiences left such an impression on Budman and Green that, later in adulthood when they went into business together, they joined forces with one of the owners of Tamakwa to develop a line of canoes and clothing under a label called Beaver Canoe. The clothing was a huge hit in the 1980s with teenagers, and the hoodies with the green Beaver Canoe logo became a ubiquitous sight on campuses everywhere. By the 1990s, the marketplace became inundated with many imitators, and Roots discontinued the label. The brand was briefly resurrected in 2012 on its 30th anniversary, much to consumers’ delight. Shortly after, when Target entered the Canadian market, a deal was struck for the U.S. retailer to sell Beaver Canoe merchandise. But sadly, when the company failed to find success in Canada, it meant Beaver

Canoe, once again, went off the market.

4. OLYMPIC ENDEAVOURS

CANADA - MARCH 24: During A Visit To The Pacific Marine Heritage Legacy Prince Charles And His Sons, Prince William And Prince Harry, Were Presented With Bright Red "roots" Canadian Olympic Jackets And Baseball Caps. Showing His Sense Of Humour, Prince William Has Decided To Put His Hat On Back To Front. (Photo by Tim Graham Picture Library/Getty Images)

In 1998, Roots officially began to outfit Canadian athletes at the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. The retailer struck gold with one of their designs – the red poorboy cap, which became a bestseller. Even royalty – that would be Princes Charles, William and Harry –acquired the coveted hats.

5. TAKING FLIGHT

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By 2001, it seem the success of Roots was literally flying high. The company launched Roots Air, a chic airline company where the staff uniforms and lounges were designed by Roots. However, the competitive airline market soon forced the Roots Air to merge with Skyservice, a charter airline.

6. SATCHEL SALES SOARS
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The 2009 blockbuster, The Hangover, featured a Roots Village Bag, worn by Alan, the zany character played by Zach Galifianakis. In the movie, he describes it as: “It’s not a man purse. It’s called a satchel. Indianna Jones wears one.” Whether it was men rushing out to buy one was irrelevant – sales of the Village Bag went blockbuster.

7. THE ART OF ROOTS

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It’s not just athletes and sports stars Roots supported. In 2010, the retailer collaborated with celebrated Canadian artist Douglas Coupland for a limited edition collection of clothing and furniture.

8. BLUE FEVER
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Just as Canadians were recently gripped by the joy that the Blue Jays might possibly make it to the World Series this year, Roots launched a very covetable and chic Blue Jays Awards jacket with the Jays’ super slugger, Josh Donaldson. Other celebrities, like actress Shay Mitchell, were seen Instagramming herself wearing one.