Innovative large-format Quebec-based fashion retailer La Maison Simons plans to eventually operate as many as 20 Canadian store locations, according to CEO Peter Simons. The company is aggressively expanding by opening stores Canada-wide which is impressive, considering it currently has only one location outside of Quebec.
Simons’ first location outside of Quebec opened in October of 2012 at West Edmonton Mall. The 126,000 square foot store has seen tremendous success and according to Mr. Simons, is the chain’s second-highest performer. After perfecting its store design with the August 2013 opening of its 115,000 square foot location at Montreal’s Galeries d’Anjou (its eighth store in Quebec), Simons embarked on its ambitious cross-Canada expansion.
Simons has formerly announced five new stores, all of which will be open by March of 2017. In August of 2015, an 80,000 square foot store will open at Les Promenades Gatineau in suburban Ottawa and in October of 2015, a 100,000 square foot location will open at West Vancouver’s Park Royal. In March 2016, a 113,000 square foot Simons will open at Mississauga’s Square One and in August of 2016, a second Ottawa location, measuring just over 100,000 square feet, will open at Rideau Centre. Last month Simons formally announced its first Calgary store, located downtown, measuring 92,000 square feet at the base of the city’s first skyscraper.
Canada is seeing substantial growth and increased competition among upscale retailers. Holt Renfrew, Harry Rosen, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue are expanding throughout Canada, carrying some of the same upscale designers as Simons. Simons differs from these other retailers, however, in how it pairs pricey designer products with its substantial moderately-priced private-label in-house fashion. Simons stores also lack cosmetics departments and large footwear areas typical of similar-sized department stores, instead focusing on ready-to-wear, accessories, and some home furnishings.
Mr. Simons tells us that he’s keen to open even more Canadian stores, and that discussions continue for a number of potential locations. He says that he’s very much interested in opening a large store in downtown Toronto, though it may not be at Toronto Eaton Centre, as many have speculated. A second Calgary location could also be in the works, according to Mr. Simons, though he declined to provide details. Mr. Simons says that the retailer was contemplating opening a Winnipeg store, though at the moment it’s concentrating on other Canadian cities. Sources also confirm that Simons has been in talks with Oxford Properties to open a 120,000 square foot location at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre though again, Mr. Simons declined to comment.
Given the assertion that Simons could operate up to 20 Canadian locations, and given the reality that it operates multiple stores in some markets, we speculate that it will operate at least two locations in the Greater Vancouver Area. Simons will no doubt resonate with West Coast shoppers — Simons is fashion forward, and a considerable amount of Vancouver’s apparel is purchased by trend-setting Asian locals and tourists. A suburban Calgary location is also a possibility and would be strategic, given the aversion of many Calgarians to shop downtown.
Mr. Simons told us in passing that, possibly some day, the retailer could expand internationally. For a retailer with such lofty Canadian expansion plans, we wouldn’t be surprised. It will be interesting to watch Simons’ expansion as it moves into Canadian cities where it has limited brand awareness, and we’ll keep you updated on any new store announcements.