22 May 2018 Posted By : Laurie Fagan

Ottawa shoe seller Armstrong & Richardson closing after 84 years

Bankruptcy notices posted at family-run footwear retailer's 5 locations Monday

Armstrong & Richardson, the high-end shoe retailer that outfitted generations of Ottawa families over more than eight decades in business, has filed for bankruptcy, closing five stores and leaving about 25 employees out of work. 

Four generations of the Armstrong family have run the business, which can trace its roots back to founders Omar Armstrong and Clarence Richardson, who set up shop in 1934.

It is with great regret and sadness that we announce the closing of our family footwear business.- Eric Armstrong

Doors were closed and bankruptcy notices posted at the company's five locations Monday, including St. Laurent Centre, Carlingwood Shopping Centre, Billings Bridge Shopping Centre, Terry Fox Drive in Kanata and an outlet store on Baxter Road. 

At the Carlingwood location, the lights were on but the folding glass doors firmly locked Monday as customers peered through the windows at displays of shoes, boots and sandals bearing brand names like Florsheim, Clarks and Birkenstock.

"I'm shocked. I've been coming to shop at  Armstong & Richardson's for years and there was never any hint this would happen,"  said customer Cora Murphy.

Murphy noted competition from six other shoe stores in the west end mall might have been a factor in the bankruptcy.

"I thought they would make it. I'm sorry to hear they didn't, " she said. "Oh dear, I really thought they had the latest styles and colours. I came here today to buy shoes and I'm really disappointed."
The company is blaming its bankruptcy on changing consumer tastes and a shifting retail environment. (Laurie Fagan )

Letter to customers, staff

In a letter addressed to its "valued customers" to be posted on its website later Tuesday, company president Eric Armstrong wrote: "It is with great regret and sadness that we announce the closing of our family footwear business."

Armstrong said the footwear company had successfully fended off challenges over the last eight decades, but acknowledged the retail landscape is shifting.

"Increasing competition, the rapid growth of e-commerce, a shift in consumer tastes, experiential spending versus buying such products as shoes, clothing and accessories, have all contributed to a decline in traditional retail," he wrote.

Armstrong was not available for an interview, but in his letter he extended "our sincere appreciation" to customers for their patronage over 84 years, and thanked employees for their "dedication and loyalty."

Bankruptcy trustees BDO Canada is handling the winding down of the chain. Andre Bolduc, who will first take inventory of the company's stock before organizing its liquidation, said the company is a victim of "the fundamental decline in traditional retail" as more and more consumers shop online.

"It's a sad moment for them, " Bolduc said. "I've shopped there personally."

A liquidation sale is scheduled to begin May 1 at the company's Kanata location.

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