Quebec retailer Simons plans to expand

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Simons, one of the country’s oldest family-owned retailers, is now hoping to defy industry woes by launching an expansion that could extend the brand across Canada.

Based in Quebec City, the 175-year-old company will open its ninth Quebec store in Gatineau next month before entering the British Columbia and Ontario markets and expanding its presence in Alberta. The fashion retailer is spending up to $200 million over the next four years to open eight stores, hoping to boost its annual sales base of more than $350 million.

Retail analyst Randy Harris of Trendex believes Simons’ gradual expansion will make it a “national powerhouse” in the Canadian apparel market. “A lot of retailers, while they’re worrying about Nordstrom and Saks, have got to be equally worried about Simons,” he says, suggesting that the company’s mid-market pricing and strong private label offering will resonate with shoppers looking for something new.

CEO Peter Simons says he is keenly aware of the risks associated with expansion, especially with the recent closing and reductions of brands such as Mexx, Smart Set and Jacob across the country.

As a relatively unknown brand outside Quebec, Simons said he knows the brand’s first challenge will be marketing. Specifically, he aims to develop a relationship with shoppers so they keep returning after the initial rush wears off.

“I’m not trying to win [consumers’] minds or their wallets,” he says. “I’d like to win their hearts.” CJ

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