By Colin Gallant
Calgary’s Stephen Avenue has a distinct feel. One block away from the city’s most effective transit options, the Red and Blue Lines of the C-Train, the hub serves as a frontline for anyone entering, exiting, or dwelling in Calgary’s downtown core. Fellow Canadian enterprises Hudson’s Bay Company and Holt Renfrew already hold dominion over the inner city department store crowd, but player three is about to enter the game.
Simons began in Quebec City in 1840, some 177 years ago. In the time since, the brand, also known as La Maison Simons, has opened 13 stores – their March debut in Calgary being number 14. The Core Shopping Centre bordering Stephen and 7th Avenues is where they’ll call 95,000 square feet home.
CEO Peter Simons says “The key for Calgary was to bring Simons to the heart of the city in a way that pairs our contemporary style with the heritage of a historic building,” adding that across five stories of retail space the retailer would “[create] an exciting shopping experience where customers can explore our branded environments; each with its own space and personality.”
Having shopped at Simons in Montreal and Edmonton, this writer can say that the appeal lies in the options. Simons offers in-house brands, trendy labels, and haute couture in their palace-sized storefronts. A regular at Wal-Mart can afford “le 31,” a budget-geared property of Simons, while a fashion week dilettante can actually try on some Maison Margiela instead of ordering from afar. Those between the two poles can peruse of-the-moment standalone brands and Simons’ range of lifestyle originals in tandem.
The Bay already offers affordables and semi-premium pieces, while Holt’s in Calgary is mostly dedicated to the high end. From personal experience, Simons seems to encompass the strengths of both while feeling distinct unto itself, thanks to its many original lines.
What’s precarious about their opening is Simons’ aggressive proximity to their competition. Does a city of one million with a sprawling geography have the concentration to support a rivalry of this size in a mere three city blocks?
Let’s not forget that, while further away, American giant Nordstrom is vying for a similar clientele at Chinook Mall, one of the city’s most patronized shopping districts.
Trends are not data, but it’s tempting to surmise that Calgary’s abundance (perhaps even excess) of premium department stores is a testament to our fragile economy’s recovery.
Only time will tell. What we know now is that a domestic enterprise is on the horizon of disrupting the status quo of premium retail in Calgary. At the very least, it’s worth your curiosity.
Simons opens March 2017 in downtown Calgary.Calgary, downtown, Simons