“The Sports Experts campus is split in two,” explained Benoit Doan, owner of L’Imaginare Stores, which he co-founded with his wife, Mirelle Bergeron. “We will occupy 28,000 square feet and another retailer will take up the rest of the space. Everything is grouped together and becomes more user friendly. ”
Mr. Doen admitted that there was not a day that he did not think about his new store. He said El Imaginaire should have already moved into his new campus. But sports professionals had to delay their action, especially due to COVID.
“I hope Christmas 2020 is my last in a very small store and it’s not enough for the number of transactions and products entering the branch. But I’m going to have another Christmas in that small store.”
Currently, the L’Imaginaire store is distributed over an area of 22,000 square feet over two floors, but with four levels, two small mezzanines. With the old courtyard on the third floor, it will accommodate its offices, which will grow to 38,000 square feet of space.
Opened in 1986, the L’Oreal boutique in Laurel Quebec never developed. Mr. Doen recalled that his first store was 160 square feet. This was smaller than his work area in the currency section of his current store. Hence the first expansion took place in 1988. It was carried out by four others in 1992, 1997, 2004 and 2014. The next expansion was the sixth in store history, at the same time, opening branches in Sherbrook, Trois-Rivieres, Lewis and Saint-Bruno. Success that gives the business owner the feeling that he has trouble explaining. And he tells why.
“In 1992, I went to see a shop owner in Montreal to tell me that I had a small shop in Quebec and to give him an association to buy some of the products sold in Europe and make them. Come to Quebec. […] The gentleman gave me a good beard: “I’m in Montreal, I store, but you’re in Quebec, you look like a comfortable store.” And he rejected my offer. When I returned to Quebec, I was devastated. I felt doomed to be pocket-sized and medium and had more or less confidence in what I was doing.
“A few years later, it closed and I grew up. One of the concept wins I had, but also … was hard to describe. I had a lot of small pitfalls. I think it’s more difficult because I’ve been in Quebec. You had to work harder to play in the big leagues. “
If it weren’t for the epidemic, new El Imagine stores could be created, Mr Doan believes. He explained that since his sons Dave and Anthony came to the company, El Imaginair has been at a very high pace in terms of expansion. He said three new branches could open in the next five years, with Montreal ready for two or three stores. Entrepreneur L’Imaginaire suggested that some markets could also be entered with the help of franchises.
“However, franchises are a completely different world. There are a lot of things to think about. We are negotiating with some possibilities, but right now we are not in that direction. We want to go, but we want to make sure that we are stepping in the right place, that we have the right people, the right products and the right location. I still believe in a lot of shopping centers. The hybrid model works even harder. ”
Referring to the subsequent expansion of his store in Laurer Quebec, Mr. Doen said it was probably his last. “I do not expect to be one of them in 2027-2029. I think I will leave my place for someone else. However, I still enjoyed working in the store a lot. Sometimes I come to spend my holidays there. Being in the store is not a big deal. I hope to stay at El Imaginaire for many more years. ”