Myriam Maguire and her sister Romy were one week away from opening the second boutique for their namesake shoe and accessories label, Maguire, in Toronto at the end of March. Then the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses across the city to shut down. After weeks of waiting, the store finally opened its doors last month, when the city entered the second stage of reopening – with a few adjustments to accommodate the new reality of shopping, of course.

After working as a shoe designer for international brands, Myriam returned to her hometown of Montreal to join Canadian retailer Aldo. In 2016, she branched out to launch her own footwear brand with the goal of offering high-quality, luxurious pieces but at a fraction of the cost, made possible by the direct-to-consumer model, and in-house marketing and retail. A year later, her sister came on board. Since then, Maguire has been steadily disrupting the way we buy shoes and opened their first concept store in Montreal last year.

“At the beginning, because we were so small, my sister and I worked at the store and we saw what we didn’t like about the shopping experience, which we tried to improve,” says Myriam.

The most eye-catching feature in the store is their signature wardrobe – a.k.a every shoe lover’s dream – which is a wall holding all of the styles in every size. Myriam explains that instead of having one of the store’s staff go back and forth with several pairs of shoes, this allows the customer to try on as many pairs as they want in a more efficient way. Then, once the style is chosen, a brand new, never-worn-before pair will be brought in from the storage room.

Although this concept was originally implemented out of convenience, it has served well during the pandemic. Currently, only a few customers are allowed inside the store at the same time. Myriam says they’ve also been asking people to wash their hands when they enter. Hand sanitizer and disposal gloves are also on-hand for trying on shoes. As for the pairs that have been tried on, they’re put away for a few days before being used again.

We caught up with Myriam to chat about innovating the shopping experience, how the pandemic has changed what types of shoes we wear and what’s next for Maguire.

Where did the idea for the wardrobe come from?

“One of the things we felt was that in the footwear industry, the way of shopping [for] shoes hasn’t changed in many years. It’s always the same when you go into a shoe store – women’s shoes on one side and men’s shoes on the other side. If you want to try something, you have to ask someone and then it [might take] long. This way, you can try a style but you don’t feel pressured to buy something.”

Have your offering changed because of the pandemic?

“Right now, the heels aren’t selling because there’s not as much need for [occasion dressing]. I’m switching all the boot collections towards more flat boots that you can wear at work but you can go walk in because people are trying to avoid public transportation. What’s different about our winter boots is that they don’t look like winter boots. In Canada, the winter is pretty long and a lot of people are wearing winter boots for six months so they’re an important item in your wardrobe, but they’re often not adapted for going out to restaurants or going to work.”

How has the pandemic changed the way you approach running Maguire?

“When COVID-19 hit, we took it as an opportunity to improve our online experience. What we’re working on is a custom shoe sizer that you can print at home that would give you the exact size needed for a specific style. This way, people won’t need to come into the store. We’re also doing a lot to improve the website so if the store has to close again, then it wouldn’t be a big deal for us. I think we’re going to end up being stronger at the end of all of this.”


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