Simons sees new app as the future of retail

VANCOUVER — Simons department store chain is launching a new app as part of its plan to grow its e-commerce business.

“We really felt the need to close that gap between e-commerce and our physical and digital footprint,” said Peter Simons, president of the Quebec-based company.

The company spent about two years working on the app, which will be available Thursday, and invested between $3 million- and- $4 million into the venture, he said.

It includes a feature that allows users to upload a photo of a product they like — be it in a magazine, another store or on a passerby — and see recommendations of similar items at Simons.

“It’s something that the apparel industry and the tech industry have been playing around with for some time,” said Doug Stephens, founder of Retail Prophet, a retail advisory firm.

The camera is becoming the new keyboard, he said, explaining the Internet is shifting from predominantly text-based to a more visual platform.

With the advent of better cameras embedded in smartphones and more capable artificial intelligence, he said consumers will grow increasingly accustomed to visual searches.

The Simons app also integrates loyalty data, tracks previous in-store and online purchases, and allows shoppers to scan tags in-store for product data.

The company is very focused on its e-commerce business, Simons said, and is also working on building a high-tech, robotic distribution facility in the future.

He’s honed in on a 500,000-square-foot property and said the company is working to put together the technological players and financing for the project.

That kind of upgrade is going to be essential for any e-commerce business, Stephens said, as businesses work to drive all inefficiencies out of the shipping process.

Online retail juggernaut Amazon set the benchmark for the rest of the industry, he said. Amazon uses a robotic technology known as the Kiva system in its warehouses and offers same-day delivery in many locations, including Toronto and Vancouver.

Last year, Hudson’s Bay Company (TSX:HBC) unveiled $60 million worth of upgrades to its Toronto distribution centre, including a robotics system intended to speed up deliveries.

Simons said its new facility will be a huge capital investment. The company operates 15 stores in Canada, most of which are in Quebec, and is in the midst of a five-year, $200-million national expansion.

But that doesn’t mean the 177-year-old company will go public any time soon, he said.

“I’m trying to avoid it, because I would like to maintain the freedom that we have with our private ownership,” Simons said, saying it allows him to make choices public companies may not be able to.

“I don’t know if we’d be able to make those choices that I would, that I would feel good with, that our organization would feel good with at the same time as satisfying this sort of insatiable quench for quarterly performance.”

Just Posted

WATCH: Finishing touches being put on Servus Arena

The finishing touches are being put on Red Deer’s newest arena. The… Continue reading

Suspect in police chase in court

RCMP opened fire twice while trying to arrest suspects in vehicle chase in October

New temporary beds will immediately help Red Deer homeless

The 20 new temporary beds approved for Safe Harbour’s warming centre cannot… Continue reading

Red Deer RCMP are seeking man posing as a police officer

Suspect is large, in his 30s, with red hair and beard

Update: “Someone knows something” – police

Motorist dies near Ponoka after loose tire collides with vehicle near Ponoka

Red Deer police seize rifles and shotguns from storage locker

A man and a woman facing nearly 200 charges after 29 firearms seized last month

Notley criticizes MLA who fired staffer after sex harassment complaint

Notley says if Jason Nixon was her house leader he’d be out of a job immediately.

Red Deer needs to find a solution to syringe debris: city manager

City will consider the problem during the 2018 operating budget talks

WestJet Christmas video turns children’s wishes into reality

This year’s annual video took a new spin on the 12 days of Christmas

VIDEO: Replay Red Deer Dec. 10

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

VIDEO: B.C. to end geographic area rent increases, close fixed-term lease loopholes

Both clauses allowed landlords to raise rents above the max annual allowable rent increase

UPDATE: Train hits hydro pole, causes outage near Deltaport

No injuries reported but traffic in and out of Deltaport is blocked

A Red Deer daycare coordinator wins provincial award of excellence

Nicole Morrell is a coordinator at Johnstone Daycare

Holiday shopping season picking up in Red Deer

With 18 shopping days left until Christmas, Red Deer businesses are cautiously… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month