Quebec City-based La Maison Simons is expanding across Canada, having most recently secured space in suburban Vancouver. We interviewed Simons' CEO Peter Simons for details of his company's expansion across Canada.
It was a long interview, so we'll summarize it below as briefly as possible. Each paragraph briefly covers a topic discussed with Mr. Simons:
Future Simons store locations in Canada: Simons is actively looking for stores across Canada including both urban and suburban sites in Toronto, Calgary, Winnipeg, Vancouver and possibly another Ottawa-area store. More specific details to follow...
Future Simons store(s) in Calgary? Simons is talking to landlords in Calgary and Simons is examining possible locations for as many as two Calgary stores: one in a downtown location, and one in the city's suburbs. We'll discuss this more at a later date.
Future Simons store in Winnipeg? Winnipeg is on Simons' radar, and a store could open somewhere in the suburbs. Moreover, Simons at Polo Park may not be a possibility at the moment, and a deal for a store in an upscale mall north of Polo Park fell through a couple of years ago. It appears there will be no imminent Winnipeg store announcements for Simons.
Future Toronto-area Simons stores? Simons is negotiating with Oxford Properties to open in Toronto's Yorkdale Shopping Centre as well as Mississauga's Square One. This would be in space to be vacated by Sears. Simons had no comment on the progress of negotiations for stores in these malls, though he mentioned that as many as 3-4 Simons stores could eventually open in the Greater Toronto Area.
Simons' new Ottawa (Rideau Centre) store: Simons will build a 105,000 square foot store with about 95,000 square feet of retail and about 10,000 square feet of service space. It will incorporate a re-built facade of the site's former Ogilvy department store. It will also feature an art installation, similar to the award-winning art display at Simons' West Edmonton Mall store.
How large will future Simons stores be? Simons is aiming to open new stores in the 100,000 square foot range. Its new Ottawa and Vancouver stores will each be about 105,000 square feet, being comprised of about 95,000 square feet of retail space and about 10,000 square feet of service space. Its recently opened Galeries d'Anjou store is slightly larger, at about 115,000 square feet.
How many Simons stores can we expect per city? Simons says that he has no particular goal for a number of stores per city. More to the point, the right space has to come available for a Simons store. Mr. Simons did mention, however, that the Toronto area could see as many as 3-4 Simons stores open in the coming years, though he couldn't provide specific locations yet.
Urban vs. suburban Simons Stores? Simons has no preference, though downtown stores can be exciting as they can contribute to building 'urban place', like what is expected to happen with its downtown Ottawa store at the Rideau Centre. Acquiring 100,000 square feet of downtown retail space can be challenging, while securing suburban space is sometimes simpler and less expensive. Vancouver's first store, for example, will be in a West Vancouver mall rather than downtown, even though downtown Vancouver now boasts some of the highest retail sales of any retail area in Canada. Currently, downtown Vancouver lacks the 100,000 square feet of contiguous retail space desired by Simons.
Highest-selling Simons stores: Not surprisingly, Simons' two most productive stores are still in the province of Quebec. Its flagship Place Ste Foy store in suburban Quebec City, along with its downtown Montreal store, are currently its highest selling. West Edmonton Mall's Simons could surpass these stores' sales within a couple of years, though. Edmonton has the chain's largest store at 118,000 square feet, including about 100,000 square feet of retail and about 18,000 square feet of service space.
On opening shoe departments at Simons: Simons, at the moment, is avoiding carrying shoes in their stores. Simons has narrowed its product mix to ready-to-wear and some accessories for the time being.
Simons' designer/private label merchandise mix: All new La Maison Simons stores are expected to carry both designer clothing for men and women as well as Simons' private label designs. The chain's smaller Quebec stores carry less designer merchandise than its larger stores. All new Simons stores will be larger and are expected to include assortments of designer clothing.
Simons' biggest retail competitors: Shoppers are more fluid and Simons carries both expensive designer and lower-priced, fashionable private-label products. Competition therefore spans the likes of Holt Renfrew to Zara and H&M. Online shopping also provides increased competition, though Simons offers it on their website.
On opening restaurants within Simons stores: Future Simons stores could include restaurant offerings, similar to Soup Soup which recently opened within Simons' Les Galeries d'Anjou store. Each location will be considered individually, and local restaurants may be considered if the right "fit" is present.
Future in-store public art installations: Simons says he expects all new stores to have art installations, similar to an award-winning installation in his Edmonton store, which opened last year.
The company's future growth strategy: Simons is a family-owned business that has been around for almost 175 years. Recognizing this, it will grow itself gradually and intelligently so that it will continue to exist for generations to come. New store openings will therefore be gradual, with no more than two stores opening per year. Simons is also looking for ways to economize on store construction, as its Edmonton store cost more than expected. The Edmonton store, nevertheless, received a prestigious award: International Store of the Year by Chainstore Age.
We'll provide further details on Simons' possible Calgary store locations soon.
[La Maison Simons website]