Simons Plots Nationwide Expansion
It’s not every day a 175-year-old company from Quebec City embarks upon a nationwide expansion. OK, it’s never happened. Until now, with family-owned fashion retailer Simons gearing up to open six new stores in the next two years. CEO Peter Simons spoke with Bisnow about his plans.
Simons opens the first new store in Gatineau in August, followed by one in West Vancouver this fall, and in 2016 at Mississauga’s Square One Shopping Centre (a 113k SF space, seen above, designed by figure3, with architecture by Lemay Michaud) and Ottawa’s Rideau Centre (100k SF). In 2017 Simons opens a store at Calgary's The CORE, then at Edmonton's Londonderry Mall, for a total of 15 locations. Each will feature original Canadian art installations; Peter says the West Van store will boast a 40-foot suspended mobile designed by Douglas Coupland, and a facade (seen below) inspired by Squamish weaving.
Founded in 1840 in Quebec City as a dry goods store, Simons today is led by Peter and his brother Richard, seen here. The company remained “quite local for a long time,” says Peter, noting their HQ within the old walled city is in the same building Simons has occupied for all of its 175 years. (“We also bought a couple of buildings on the side.”) The fashion retailer grew throughout Quebec in the 1990s, opening eight stores. In 2012 Simons launched its first location outside Quebec, at West Edmonton Mall, an early expansion effort that inspired confidence, Peter says. “The experience has been quite good there.”
Some may see it as risky for Simons to expand at a time other fashion retailers are folding. But Peter is certain Simons' unique art and architecture-focused in-store experience sets the chain apart. “We’re creating destinations worth visiting, a platform for human interaction versus just a commercial channel.” And while Simons has nationwide ambitions, its CEO says he’s content for the company to stay HQd in the place where it began. “I’m not going to build Walmart, but if Mr. Walton can build something out of Bentonville, AR, we can certainly try to build something based in Quebec City.”