Quebec-based fashion retailer Simons on Thursday launched e-commerce site Fabrique1840, featuring an all-Canadian lineup of artisans and emphasizing the human touch in a bid to stand out from fast-growing handmade-crafts platform Etsy and online retail giants Amazon and eBay.
“I think we are moving to a second generation of platforms as customers gravitate to those that have a set of qualitative values and curation behind them,” said Peter Simons, president and co-owner of the privately held company.
He said Simons offerings are popular with younger audiences who demand a link between the product, the producer and the community. “Young people are looking for much more than the pure size of the assortment,” he said in an interview. “They want a personal connection with businesses that share their values.”
“When you get to a site with 80,000 options, it’s complicated and the top option isn’t necessarily the best. Our platform is a way for people to come together and assure the creative side is being remunerated and is controlling its destiny.”
He said the mobile-payment-enabled site launches with more than 50 merchants who will maintain ownership of their customer data. Merchant fees for using the platform range across three models with the most expensive allowing for a full e-commerce management solution.
Family-owned La Maison Simons, or Simons as it is known, operates the Simons.ca web platform along with 15 department stores in Canada, including one at the Square One Shopping Centre in Mississauga.
Peter Simons said the company has the second leading Canadian online fashion market after Amazon and shares technological expertise with entrepreneurs “to help them succeed in a world dominated by a limited number of global platforms.
“The level of design and craftsmanship in this country is truly remarkable,” Simons said. “We want to support these gifted creators to ensure they can make a living from their craft and contribute to the local economy. Canadian design needs to be as celebrated as Scandinavian or Japanese design, and we want to help tell that story.”
Similar to its approach to finding fashion designers for Simons stores and Simons.ca, the company says it is hunting for undiscovered Canadian producers to bring to Fabrique1840.
The company said the new online site includes everything from home decor and modern art to fashion accessories and stationery. Items on the site include a glazed white ceramic wine cooler for $125, a double-breasted woman’s overcoat for $275 and Hutchinson hanging lamp at $1,550.
Canadian brands involved at launch include Bookhou, a partnership between Arounna Khounnoraj and John Booth, who are artists with a multidisciplinary studio in Toronto. They produce a variety of handmade items including furniture and textiles.
“Fabrique1840 will showcase Canada’s best – all of the makers involved are at the top of their game,” said Khounnoraj. “Working with Simons – a family-owned business like ours – gives us the opportunity to grow our business beyond our current reach.”
“For us the Fabrique1840 project is an opportunity to get closer to our audience,” added Lamert et Fils founder Samuel Lambert.
Simons, which has been increasingly focused on online retail since launching a customized platform in 2010, this year accepted outside investment to support its e-commerce push that includes investment in a robotically controlled distribution centre in Quebec City.
It is also faces strong competition including Amazon, which launched its Handmade handcrafted goods site in 2015 and Etsy, which shows accelerating growth on cost cuts and strong demand for its handmade crafts and vintage items.
Fabrique1840, a nod to the location of the original Simons store founded in 1840 on Côte de la Fabrique in Quebec City, also represents Simons’s entry into management of e-commerce sites for other business, which will be fully supported by the new distribution centre when construction is completed by 2020.