Peter Simons heads a fashion business that’s been in the family for generations. “My great, great grandfather emigrated from Scotland to Canada in 1812 and it was my great grandfather who opened the first Simons,” he explains. He pauses, saying he’s mentally making sure the “greats” are correct.
The Quebec City-based company started as a dried goods importer in 1840 and has grown to become one of Quebec’s biggest fashion chains, with seven locations. But, this month, it’s taking its first step out of the province and planting it right on West Edmonton Mall‘s Europa Boulevard(opening Sept. 12 Oct. 17).
Simons is aware that when people think of chain stores, it’s the similarities, not differences, that come to mind. But he says none of his stores are carbon copies. He tries to make each location a little different.
The Edmonton space is home to two fresh concepts: Photo studios that letcustomers pose with their try-ons and post them online through either their personal or the brand’s social-media accounts for immediate feedback; and a series of “express” changing stalls that descend from the ceiling via remote control in the tween girls department. It’s a fast solution to servicing its most voracious shoppers, and practical for a 115,000-square-foot store.
Even the installation art in each location varies. For Edmonton, Simons commissioned Philip Beesley, a sculptor who has displayed work at the American Academy in Rome, to create shards of laser-cut acrylic and mylar that hang from beside the customer service desk on the mezzanine to the clothing racks on the ground floor. The LED-lit installation has sensors that make it sway to the movement of customers walking the stairs. Says Simons, “At night, that’ll become like a galaxy.”