Roots Canada

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Roots Ltd.
Traded asTSXROOT
FoundedToronto, Ontario, Canada (1973 (1973))
FoundersMichael Budman & Don Green
Number of locations
120 Canadian and American stores; 65 locations in Asia
Areas served
Canada, United States, Asia
ProductsApparel, leather goods, active athletic wear, yoga wear, accessories, home furnishings
OwnerSearchlight Capital Partners (majority stake)
Budman & Green (minority stake)
Number of employees
2,000 in Canada[1]

Roots Ltd. or Roots Canada (doing business as simply Roots) is a publicly held Canadian brand that sells women’s, men’s, children’s, and baby's apparel; leather bags; footwear; active athletic wear; small leather goods; and home furnishings. The company was founded in 1973 by Michael Budman and Don Green.

Their design centre and leather factory are located in Toronto, Ontario. Roots employs 1,600 people in Canada.[2] As of May 2013, Roots was operating 210 stores in Canada, the United States, and Asia, and could ship its products to 50 countries with online ordering.

Roots started using the beaver logo in 1985 with the launch of their athletic brand. The logo was designed in the 1970s and features the Cooper font, named after Heather Cooper, one of the graphic designers.


In 1973, Michael Budman and Don Green founded Roots, initially a footwear company that sold the Negative Heel Shoes, before expanding their product offering. The Kowalewski family and their family business, the Boa Shoe Company, were the first makers of "Negative Heel Shoes", which became Roots' defining product. Roots opened its first store on Yonge St. near the Rosedale subway station, in Toronto in August 1973. A couple of months later, Roots bought the Upin and Ipin Company and opened their first leather factory.[3] By the end of the year, Roots had stores in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and a few locations in the U.S.[4]


Roots store in Yorkdale Mall, Toronto
Roots store on Bloor St. in Toronto

As the demand for the Negative Heel Shoes continued, the Roots factory expanded and by the fall of 1975 the factory that had been making only 30 pairs of shoes a day was making more than 2,000.[5] Later that year, Roots decided to experiment with casual apparel.[6]

By 1977, Roots had expanded to 65 retail outlets across North America and Europe, and 250 employees.[7] Roots then began the transition from making Negative Heel Shoes to making footwear with a wedge sole and introduced classic handbags. The company began wholesaling bags, footwear, belts, and leather jackets to Canadian retailers like Eaton’s and Holt Renfrew, and major U.S. retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, and Nordstrom. Roots continued to expand its product line by introducing Roots Design in 1979, their first line of men’s tailored clothing.

By the end of 1980, with the closing of many stores in the U.S. and Europe, Roots began to expand in Canada. The expansion ushered in the manufacturing of T-shirts and sweatshirts on a small scale, and the creation of the brand’s label Beaver Canoe, a joint venture canoe building operation with Camp Tamakwa’s co-founder Omer Stringer. Clothing and outdoor items were then created under the Beaver Canoe brand in 1983. Two years later, Roots launched Roots Beaver Athletics (RBA) with the beaver logo and by the early nineties, the logo had appeared on more than a million garments.[8]

Roots began to expand in Asia in 1993, starting with two stores in Japan, where the Negative Heel Shoes had a second life and continued to expand throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.[9] Although Roots stores have closed in certain areas of Asia, Roots in Taiwan and China began to expand in the 2000s. Over the last few years, these stores have expanded their product offering to include apparel as well as leather goods, kids apparel, and home furnishings. Roots Taiwan launched a separate website in 2011. As of May 2013, Roots had 75 retail outlets in Taiwan[10] and 16 in China with plans for continued expansion.

In 2001, the company was involved with the creation of a new Canadian discount airline, Roots Air, which operated Airbus A320 and Boeing 727-200 jetliners in scheduled passenger service. However, the experiment was short lived and the airline was shut down the same year.


Roots contributed to the Olympic games in 1976, providing 200 quilted “Puff” boots to the Canadian Team[11] at the Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria.[12] In 1988, Roots provided Jamaica’s Olympic bobsled team with custom made jackets.[13] The story is made famous by the 1993 hit movie Cool Runnings starring John Candy wearing a Roots jacket. Roots created a special retail collection of clothes in honour of the 1994 Canadian Olympic team, under the banner "Roots Salutes the Canadian Olympic Team". Roots designed a jacket for the Norwegian skier and Olympic Gold Medalist Stein Eriksen for the Olympic Games in Lillehammer in 1994.

In 1998, Roots began its formal Olympic involvement, outfitting the Canadian team at the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. The outfit's most popular item was the red “poorboy” cap (or poor boy cap) worn backwards, which became undetectable and were seen on celebrities such as Prince William and P. Diddy.[14] Roots at one point sold 100,000 of these berets a day at US$19.95 a piece, eventually selling over half a million.[2]

Roots went on to be the official outfitter for members of the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Teams from 2000 to 2004, and was the official outfitter for the Canadian Speed Skating Team in 2006. Roots outfitted the United States Olympic and Paralympic Teams in 2002, 2004, and 2006. Other teams that Roots outfitted include the British Olympic Team (2002, 2004), and the Barbados Olympic Team (2004).

In 2005, Roots was outbid on the Canadian Olympic contract by Hudson's Bay Company (sold through The Bay and Zellers), and in 2008 the USOC replaced Roots with Polo Ralph Lauren. The USOC had a disagreement with Roots over the direction of the athletes' uniforms, but it is also suggested that Roots did not want its brand to be involved with the 2008 Summer Olympics which saw much political controversy over human rights.[3][4]


Roots' famous sweats on display

Roots has 120 stores in North America, including five flagship stores in Canada in Toronto (Bloor St., The Eaton Centre, and Yorkdale Shopping Centre), Vancouver (on Robson St.), and Montreal (Centreville). Though, the large two-story Bloor St. location, which was known for holding many events, recently downsized to a new location on the same street. Other notable locations include Rosedale in Toronto, Market Mall in Calgary (all leather store). In 2013, Roots opened locations in Montreal (Westmount), Niagara Falls (Spring Garden).

After years of running the business together, in 2014 Michael Budman and Don Green hired a President and Chief Operating Officer, Wendy Bennison,[15] who had previously employed as Vice President of Mark's Work Warehouse.[16]

In 2015 Roots was sold to Searchlight Capital LP which now holds majority stake with the Founders retaining a minority stake.[17]

As of March 2016, Jim Gabel is now the new President of Roots Canada.

In September 2017, the company filed for an initial public offering on the Toronto Stock Exchange.[18]


  1. ^ Company Fact Sheet
  2. ^ Shaw, Holly, “Sinking Roots in Canada,” Financial Post, June 10, 2011. Retrieved May 15, 2013 from
  3. ^ Ryval, Michael, “Roots firmly planted,” Toronto Life, Mar 1977, p.113, p.115
  4. ^ Toronto Life, March 1977, p. 115.
  5. ^ Posner, Michael. “Happy Campers,” Toronto Life, October 1993. p.53
  6. ^ Pevere, Geoff. Team Spirit, 1998. p.112.
  7. ^ Ryval, 54.
  8. ^ Pevere, 114.
  9. ^ (Montreal), The Gazette. "Spreading its Roots in Asia". Retrieved 2015-09-16.
  10. ^ "ROOTS CANADA celebrates their 40th anniversary book - Vancity Buzz". Retrieved 2015-09-16.
  11. ^ Limited, Toronto Standard Media Company. "Forty Years of Roots". Toronto Standard. Retrieved 2015-09-16.
  12. ^ Aoki, Naomi. “Canadian Firm Goes for the Gold: Retailer Roots is hoping to build on its Olympic success to outfit more athletes and consumers,” The Boston Globe, August 12, 2004, Retrieved May 26, 2013, from
  13. ^ Winans, Vanessa. “Roots of Style: Company’s Olympic Beret are the latest must have accessory,” The Blade, Feb 21, 2002. Retrieved May 26, 2013, from
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ "Roots Canada Ltd.: CEO and Executives - Businessweek". Retrieved 2015-09-16.
  16. ^ Wendy, Bennison (September 16, 2015). "Linkedin". Linkedin.
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Canadian retailer Roots files for IPO, plans to list on TSX". Toronto Star. 14 September 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2017.