The Canadian owner of one of Canada's best-known shoe retailers has filed for bankruptcy protection.

Sherson Group, a Canadian distributor and retailer of footwear and accessories, is the licensed distributor of Nine West shoes in Canada. It also holds the Canadian rights to brands such as Anne Klein, Easy Spirit, Bandolino, Flogg, and Mootsies Tootsies.

The privately held company operates 47 Nine West locations in Canada.

Toronto-based Sherson is the latest in a series of Canadian retail bankruptcy protection filings or store closings, some stemming from a slower Canadian economy. This time, the culprit appears to be intense competition.

In documents filed Tuesday with Ontario Superior Court, Sherson lists 69 creditors to whom it owes at least $250.

The largest amount is more than $19 million owed to Nine West Group Inc. in the U.S., which licenses the Canadian rights of the brand to Sherson and supplies the shoes, handbags and jewellery for the stores.

Sherson also owes its chairman and CEO Stephen Applebaum and Stephen Applebaum Inc. at least $3.8 million, the documents show.

The total amount owed to all creditors is upwards of $32 million. 

It was unclear what the debt restructuring means for the fate of Nine West in Canada.

According to the documents, Richter Advisory Group will serve as trustee in the process.

Intense competition

Sherson last hit financial trouble during the recession in 2009. The company closed about a dozen Nine West stores, cut expenses and came up with a footprint for smaller, more efficient stores.

Other operators of Canadian retail outlets have also run into financial trouble in the past two years:

  • In January, less than two years after opening, Target announced it was shuttering its 133 locations and leaving Canada.
  • Last December, Mexx filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada and said it would close all its 95 stores.
  • In November, parent company Reitmans said it was closing its 107 Smart Set locations.
  • In August, Bombay, Bowring & Co. and Benix & Co. — three retailers owned by the Benitah family — filed for bankruptcy protection and said it would close 110 stores.
  • Also in August, Holt Renfrew said it would close its stores in Ottawa and Quebec City.
  • In May 2014, Jacob abandoned restructuring efforts and announced it was closing all of its 92 stores.