DeSerres celebrates 100 years of creativity - The Quebec company makes a major acquisition in France and adopts a new global branding strategy

    MONTREAL, Feb. 19 /CNW Telbec/ - In celebration of its 100th anniversary,
Canada's top arts and crafts retailer has announced that it will be revamping
its identity and dropping the name "Omer" to become known simply as "DeSerres"
- a new brand image for the next stage of the company's growth. In so doing,
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 it marks the first time a Quebec retailer has
made 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 Quebec, 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 will be rolled out starting in February 2008.
    "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."
    Interestingly enough, Mr. DeSerres chose to move ahead with this
acquisition with the approval of his management committee, despite the
scepticism of some of his consultants. He has also followed the advice of a
Canadian banking executive based in Paris: "If you drop by once every three
months, you'll lose everything, but if you are here on a regular basis, you'll
make it happen." With monthly meetings, a consultation-oriented corporate
culture and a flat management structure, DeSerres has been able to reinforce
relationships between executives and leverage their commitment to overcoming
the challenges they face. The positive impacts of this strategy will
undoubtedly continue to be felt for some time to come.

    A multigenerational success story

    A key driver of creative expression in Quebec, DeSerres has been wholly
owned and managed by the DeSerres family for three generations - an unrivalled
track record in Quebec. Over the years, the DeSerres family has continually
adjusted its approach in line with consumers' needs. 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 the first Quebec retailer to make an acquisition in France,
DeSerres is acting as a role model for the entire retail industry here in
Quebec," 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. Here in
Canada, the chain will be relocating its Ottawa store to the Saint-Laurent
Centre in June 2008. It also plans to develop its own exclusive in-house line
of products. Finally, a book written by Hélène DeSerres on the history of the
DeSerres family has just been published by Les Editions de l'Homme.

For further information:

For further information: Josée Massicotte, (514) 388-0169,; Valérie Gonzalo, (514) 626-6976,; Marie Routhier, (514) 270-5005,; Source: DeSerres,

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