Inside Quebec’s changing fashion retail industry

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Over the last three years, Quebec’s fashion retail industry has drastically changed, with various homegrown retailers—including Parasuco, Bedo and Mexx Canada—packing up shop and closing their doors. This may be due, say experts, to a widespread failure to adapt to the modern retail environment.

Montreal has long stood as Quebec’s centre for fashion and culture, housing 70 per cent of the province’s apparel companies. However, the metropolis has recently taken a hit in its downtown shopping areas, with many of its store locations now empty and sporting “À Louer”—or “For Rent”—signs.

Ethan Song, co-founder of menswear company Frank & Oak, notes that his St-Viateur Street location has been able to survive in this uncertain—and somber—climate due to its creation of a unique client-based retail experience. The retailer offers in-store barbershops, cafes and personal stylists, making it a one-of-a-kind destination for the city’s hippest citizens.

“People want intrinsic value,” he says. “It’s not just about the brand anymore. People care about the quality of the product.”
Peter Simons, president and CEO of 175-year-old Quebec retailer La Maison Simons, adds that in this province’s changing retail environment, companies must “invest aggressively” in order to stay afloat.

Simons notes that his company has remained competitive by strengthening its technological platforms and omnichannel initiatives. These strategies aim to improve customers’ in-store experiences, specifically by amplifying interpersonal and social interactions via mobile devices and apps.
Recently, Montreal’s condo boom has brought about a redevelopment of the city’s downtown core, with a fresh group of retailers set to occupy much of Ste Catherine Street. Newcomers include another Frank & Oak boutique, high-end boot makers La Canadienne and a massive Holt Renfrew x Ogilvy’s department store.
If this new line of retailers can follow the customer experience-centred lead of Simons and Frank & Oak, they stand a better chance of persisting in an uncertain retail climate. Otherwise, they will be unable to endure the pressure from international and out-of-province competitors. CJ

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