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Simons says Metro Vancouver is a good location for expansion, despite its crowded retail marketplace

Wednesday, June 03, 2015 > 10:47:51
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(Business Vancouver)

Family-owned Quebec City fashion retailer set to compete with Nordstrom, Holt Renfrew when it opens its 100,000-square-foot outlet in West Vancouver’s Park Royal Shopping CentreQuebec-based Simons is joining the burgeoning local fold of high-end fashion retailers setting up shop in Vancouver, only its second location outside Quebec.

The family-owned retailer is building a 100,000-square-foot location at Park Royal South set to open October 15. The 175-year-old private company, founded as a dry goods store in Quebec City in 1840 by John Simons, currently has nine stores, eight in Quebec and one in West Edmonton Mall.

“Vancouver is a great city, and what I found travelling across Canada is that each city has its own style, and I think our unique assortment and our exclusive merchandise will really relate to the creativity of the Vancouver market,” said CEO Peter Simons, who represents the fifth generation of the Simons family.

Simons said the store’s mix of private labels, popular national brands and international designs in clothing and home decor, along with creative merchandise presentation and community connections will help the company garner a piece of the highly competitive Vancouver retail market.He said consumer “curiosity” should help attract customers from across the Lower Mainland.

“I’m hoping they’ll want to come and see the space and see the assortment. It will be a unique destination in the Vancouver area. We’re going to make it worthwhile to come visit us.

”While the company brings in more than $300 million in sales annually, it’s largely unknown to West Coast shoppers. Simons  is  focusing on building its brand locally “one person at a time.”“I’m hoping that if we connect with the community and we have a world-class business with great people and great product ... that customers are going to relate to that and appreciate that,” Simons saidSimons also focuses on creating one-of-a-kind stores relying in part on local art so that no two stores look alike.

The Park Royal location will feature art by Coast Salish artist Jody Broomfield, West Vancouver artist Bobbie Burgers and novelist Douglas Coupland.Simons plans to open five other locations by 2017:  in Gatineau, Ottawa, Mississauga, Calgary and another one in Edmonton.

“We’re one of the oldest family businesses in the country, and there aren’t many Canadian retailers left,” Simons said. “We wanted to be a bit bigger so that we could do some of the creative projects and ideas that we have in mind. “Simons enters the Vancouver retail market as Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) prepares for the September 18 launch of its Pacific Centre department store and Holt Renfrew plans a major expansion. Italian luxury chain Moncler also recently announced plans for a Vancouver store (see sidebar), Saks FifthAvenue has been rumoured to have  plans to open a store locally, and Prada is also planning to open a Vancouver location.

Raymond Shoolman, senior consultant at DIG360 Consulting, said the major task for Simons will be to market itself as a shopping destination for locals and tourists.“Simons’ challenge will be to attract consumers from all around the Lower Mainland to the North Shore.

”Shoolman sees the dynamic changes in local high-end retail as a “positive” trend for consumers and the city.“We have the majority of high-end retailers in Vancouver,” he said. “If a lot of these stores are successful, I think we will see more coming.” •


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