The last interview guest of the Fashion & Design Festival in Montreal was none other than Peter Simons. The fifth generation of Simons men to run the famed Québec shopping destination La Maison Simons.
Simons took over the family business from his father in 1996. It was under his guidance that the retail store ventured out of it’s Québec City home to new Canadian Destinations. They now have stores in Edmonton, Gatineau, Laval, Anjou, Montréal, Sherbrooke & St-Bruno-de-Montarville. They’re also opening a store in the nation’s capital in the fall.
Simons was very gracious and forthcoming during the conference, he also demonstrated a very charming sense of humour.
There was a lot of discussion around the recent expansion of the stores, given that the retail market in Canada is particularly rough these days for home-grown brands. Simons insisted that retail wasn’t dead, and that a lot of their success was due to overall experience in stores, mixed with architectural design of the spaces. Simons stores are known for featuring big art pieces in their stores.
The president mentioned that at the beginning of their art inclusion, he expected customers to walk in and be in awe and mention the beauty of the pieces to him. He was surprised when this turned out to not be the case. He’s since realized that beauty creates comfort. When people walk into a Simons store, they feel comfortable. The customers don’t necessarily know or understand why, but the space is soothing to them. If they didn’t feel comfortable or if the art installations created discomfort, that’s when they would voice their opinions.
Their expansion will also allow them to have more clout in decision making. In terms of buying and producing, but also in a variety of other projects. That being said, their expansion remains about quality, not quantity.
Having studied science, Peter Simons loves numbers. He’s a big fan of data, and as one of the conference guests asked him if he thought only relying on data for decision making made people less creative, he insisted that it was the opposite! He says data shows us the direction to go into, and frees humans from making unnecessary decisions and concentrating on the creative aspects of their work, enabling them to surpass themselves. It’s a very interesting way of looking at things, but we’re not sure it can apply to all spheres of data collection.
Simons’ eCommerce website has surpassed all expectations and according to Simons himself, sales constantly go over their initial projections. Which is a great thing! For them, the eCommerce website isn’t a separate entity from the stores, the inventory is all linked together, and customers can return and exchange merchandise bought online in stores. Everything has to run smoothly together and represent the brand effectively.
It was surprisingly fascinating to hear Peter Simons talk about his company and his team, on which he heavily relies on for decision making. He’s one of those people that believes in surrounding himself with people who are smarter and more knowledgeable in order to learn and make the right choices.
This year, Simons celebrates it’s 175 year in business, and we wish them 175 more!