DeSerres celebrates 100 years of creativity - Canadian retailer makes a major acquisition in France and adopts a new global branding strategy



    TORONTO, March 3 /CNW Telbec/ - In celebration of its 100th anniversary,
Canada's top arts and crafts retailer has announced that it will be
discontinuing the names "Omer DeSerres" and "Loomis Art Store" to become known
simply as "DeSerres" and that it will be adopting a new brand image consistent
with this revamped identity. DeSerres made its first foray outside Québec when
it acquired Loomis & Toles in 1988. The stores operating under this banner -
most of them located in Toronto, but also in Halifax and Vancouver - were
renamed Loomis Art Store 10 years later. Now, with this new branding strategy,
DeSerres is firmly setting its sights on becoming a leader in the worldwide
arena. This commitment has recently been confirmed with a major breakthrough
into the French market with the acquisition of Artacréa. The transaction is
particularly significant in that DeSerres is one of the first Canadian retail
pioneers to make such an acquisition in France.

    A large-scale transaction

    This past year has been a very important one for DeSerres, with the
opening of three new stores in Québec, one in Toronto and one in Edmonton -
its first foray into the Alberta market, and the acquisition of Artacréa in
France. The Artacréa deal involves 13 outlets, including seven strategically
located stores in Paris and six others in smaller markets across the country.
The banners acquired as part of the turnaround operation are Rougier & Plé,
Créa and Graphigro, which together employ some 175 people. The launch of the
new DeSerres brand image in France is slated for summer 2008. In Canada, the
initiative started rolling out this February.
    "We are obviously very proud to be making such tremendous inroads in
France," says Marc DeSerres, president of DeSerres. "Our acquisition strategy
in Canada over the past 25 years has helped prepare us for this large-scale
transaction. We are also realizing how much easier it is to do business in
France than it might first appear: our cultures are quite similar, the market
is very structured and accessible, and today's technologies make it much
simpler to communicate and share information. Backed by suppliers from around
the world, a unique international lineup of exclusive products and our
increased buying power, our expertise has clearly become very exportable."

    Increasingly present across the entire country

    Today, DeSerres runs 26 stores in Canada, including 10 outside of Québec,
in locations in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Nova Scotia. This
expansion is the result of a carefully planned acquisition strategy aimed at
consolidating the company's positioning in the creative hobbies sector.
Following the purchase of Loomis & Toles in 1988, DeSerres acquired Eez Zee
Art in Ottawa in 1991. This DeSerres branch will move to Ottawa's
Saint-Laurent Centre this coming June.
    "Because the Québec market is saturated, our development strategy must
necessarily focus on the rest of Canada and Europe," adds Mr. DeSerres. "In
particular, British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario offer significant growth
opportunities. We are even expecting to double the number of stores in these
provinces."

    A multigenerational success story

    DeSerres has been wholly owned and managed by the DeSerres family for
three generations and remains today 100% owned by Marc DeSerres. The DeSerres
stores have specialized in metalworks, hardware, sporting goods, computer
equipment and, finally, art supplies - successfully reinventing themselves at
every turn. The art supplies chain's visibility exploded when it shifted its
focus from catering strictly to the artistic community, which represents some
10% of the population, to reaching out to a much broader group of arts and
crafts enthusiasts, or about 50% of the general public. By making art supplies
readily available to everyone and by targeting niche markets such as children
and specialty leisure activities such as scrapbooking and beading, DeSerres
has successfully managed to maximize the customer experience.
    Jacques Nantel, secretary general of HEC Montréal and former holder of
the Omer DeSerres Chair of Retailing, points out that "throughout its long
history, DeSerres has inspired generations of young entrepreneurs. The support
of the DeSerres family, particularly Marc DeSerres, for retail training and
research initiatives has been admirable. In addition to being a world-class
retailer, DeSerres is a source of pride for our entire community."
    "By becoming one of the first Canadian retailers to make an acquisition
in France, DeSerres is acting as a role model for the entire retail industry,"
adds Gaston Lafleur, president and CEO of the Conseil québécois du commerce de
détail. "The firm's dynamic approach and willingness to constantly adjust its
approach to stay in touch with consumers' needs sets a great example for other
retail entrepreneurs."

    On the horizon

    In 2008, DeSerres will focus on consolidation efforts to secure the
worldwide positioning of its brand. Its strategy of acquiring independent
stores as used in Canada will be extended to the French market. It also plans
to develop its own exclusive in-house line of products.




For further information:

For further information: Valérie Gonzalo, (514) 923-1549,
gonzalo@videotron.ca; Source: DeSerres, www.deserres.ca

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