As popular Quebec clothing retailer Simons opens its first store in Ontario, marketing experts say the company faces a challenge in a crowded, fickle market.

Ron Tite, CEO of the Tite Group, said Simons’ main task is to provide “an experience in store that is better than you can get on the Internet.”

“They’re not battling for the wallet, they’re battling for people’s time,” Tite told CTV’s Canada AM on Thursday.

Simons started out as a dry goods store in 1840 and eventually morphed into a successful fashion retailer in Quebec. In recent years, it has announced plans to expand into other provinces, with stores in Edmonton, Vancouver, Ottawa and the Greater Toronto Area.

Thursday marks the official opening of the first Simons store in Ontario, located at the Square One mall in Mississauga. There are plans for two more locations in the GTA.

At 110,000 square feet, the Square One store will have plenty to offer. In addition to the latest men’s and women’s fashions from private labels like Twik, the store also has a café and a terrace.

Tite said that Simons has to provide an “amazing experience” in order to attract customers’ attention at a time when high-end American retailers, such as Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, are setting up shop in Canada.  A Saks Off 5th luxury discount store is also opening Thursday in Vaughan, Ont.

Tite said that Simons’ has a proven track record in Quebec, as well as a “great story” of a family-run business.

“The challenge is, does anybody know who they are outside Quebec?” he said.

Tite said Simons will benefit from offering clothes at different price points, which will attract a range of customers. And being a Canadian company will definitely help them, but “they can’t expect that (alone) to drive awareness,” he said.  

“I think over time, people will come to really enjoy Simons.”

Retail analyst Doug Stephens said Simons must continue to provide a great in-store experience, as well as build an online presence, if it wants to ensure success in different parts of the country.

He told CTV News Channel on Thursday that the company has been around for so long and understands what consumers are looking for, but people in Western Canada have likely never heard of Simons.

Stephens also noted that today’s consumers are “much, much more discerning about how they spend their money” and are making considered choices, whether it’s at a discount or luxury retailer.