Simons takes on outside investors as it looks to build new distribution centre

QUEBEC — Department store operator Simons is taking on outside investors for the first time as it looks to build a new $215-million distribution centre in Quebec City to better compete in the retail market.

The Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, the province’s pension-fund manager, is investing $27 million, while Investissement Quebec — the provincial government’s investment arm — is putting $17 million in the privately held company.

The Quebec government itself is also providing an $81-million term loan, while the institutional investor tied to the province’s largest labour federation is contributing $20 million through a real estate partnership for purchasing the land and building the new project.

Simons’ new facility is expected to use automated equipment and technologies that will allow the company to increase its productivity and order-fulfillment capacity, helping it remain competitive in the retail market.

Company president Peter Simons told reporters he’s “going to war.”

“The ultimate question is this: Are we able, here in Quebec City, to have the ambition, the passion, the vision and the courage to build a world-class company? My brother and I say yes.

“We are going to war — and it’s a war for us. There are the Amazons of this world … I have my team and we are going to war and we are going to innovate like we have done for the past 10 years.”

Simons, a family company founded by John Simons in 1840 in Quebec City, has been expanding across Canada in recent years and now has 15 stores including locations in Ontario, Alberta and B.C.

The new centre in Quebec City, which is expected to open in 2020, will cover about 53,000 square metres and be able to process 15,000 customer orders per hour.

Part of the investment package announced Tuesday will go toward converting the company’s existing distribution location in Quebec City into a multi-use centre that will “accelerate online commerce,” Simons said.

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