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Simons a major part of Park Royal expansion

Quebec-based fashion retailer has been eyeing expansion to Metro Vancouver for five years
Larco Investments Ltd. vice-president Rick Amantea is overseeing renovations at his company’s Park Royal shopping centre | Rob Kruyt

Park Royal plans to unveil a 100,000-square-foot Simons fashion boutique, an expanded food court and a spate of new retailers in the next few months as part of a major renovation of space south of West Vancouver’s Marine Drive.

Other additions at Park Royal South, such as a new Keg Steakhouse + Bar, will not open until next year.

Changes this month add approximately 70,000 square feet and make B.C.’s second-largest shopping centre about 1.37 million square feet, or roughly 345,000 square feet smaller than Metropolis at Metrotown.

New retailers scheduled to open soon in 30,000 square feet of the new space include American Eagle Outfitters, QE Home, Plen+y, Peoples Jewellers, Geox, La Vie en Rose, French Sole, Sneaker Box Co., Aldo, Murchie’s Tea & Coffee and Shefield & Sons.

“Most expansion space we’ve built has been spoken for,” said Rick Amantea, vice-president of Larco Investments Ltd., which owns the shopping centre. “Now it’s a matter of back filling existing space where we can.”

Simons, which opens October 15, has taken the rest of the new space.

Larco demolished a 40,000-square-foot Extra Foods location as well as 20,000 square feet of adjacent space to make way for the 100,000-square-foot Simons building.

To accommodate Loblaws, which previously owned the Extra Foods store, Larco is redeveloping Park Royal North space north of Marine Drive for the upscale and relatively new Loblaws CityMarket, which is expected to open next year.

(Above is a map of Park Royal. Most of the current renovations are to Park Royal South | Park Royal)

New stores slated for existing space include a 10,000-square-foot Dollarama set to open before December. Amantea said a lower-level food court will move upstairs and reopen in an expanded area October 23.

Retail analyst and Retail Insider Media Ltd. owner Craig Patterson predicts that Simons will thrive.

“Simons is an unusual concept unlike anything else in North America,” he said. “Imagine Zara, H&M and Le Château merging with Holt Renfrew. It’s bizarre.”

He said Simons carries some inexpensive clothing that looks good as well as some clothing that is mid-range.

“Then you’ve got this crazy-expensive designer stuff thrown in,” he said before pointing to designers such as the high-end Vivienne Westwood, whose Canadian sales are exclusively at Simons, a fifth-generation family business based in Quebec City.

“Given the designer-driven nature of the Vancouver consumer, the city’s high Asian population and the fact that Simons carries some exclusive, expensive designers, I think it will do very well,” Patterson said.

Simons CEO Peter Simons told Business in Vancouver that he has eyed the Metro Vancouver market for the past five years. He initially gravitated to Park Royal because it, too, is owned by a family business.

“I felt that the [Larco-owning] Lalji family appreciated and understood what we were trying to do,” Simons said.

(Simons CEO Peter Simons is the fifth generation of his family to operate his fashion chain | Rob Kruyt)

Simons' store at Park Royal will be Simons’ 11th location and, aside from one at West Edmonton Mall, its only location outside Quebec. Simons added that his company intends to open about two stores per year for the next several years.

The company is on pace to generate more than $400 million in annual sales, and Simons does not want to take the company public. “Being a family business gives us the freedom to do stuff that is difficult to do as a public entity,” Simons said.

He declined to say how much he spent on a 50-foot-long art installation by West Vancouver artist Douglas Coupland.

Instead, he said it was “priceless” and called it an example of what makes his stores distinctive and connected to communities.

“If you tell a public company’s board of directors that you’re going to put a large piece of art by Douglas Coupland in the middle of your store, they’re going to kick you out.”•

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