“The sports experts headquarters will be divided into two parts,” explained Benoit Doyon, owner of L’Imaginaire Stores, a company he founded with his wife Mireille Bergeron. “We will occupy 28,000 square feet and another retailer will occupy the rest of the space. We will move the entire store there. However, we will keep the area on the third floor where customers come to pick up their orders online and we will turn them into pick-up desks, which we currently have, but a little bit there and another there. It will now be Put it all together and it becomes more user-friendly.”
Mr. Doyon admitted that there had never been a day he hadn’t thought of his new shop. He said L’Imaginaire was already supposed to move to its new headquarters. But sports experts have been forced to delay their move, especially due to COVID.
“I had hoped that Christmas 2020 would be my last in a very small shop and no longer suitable for the number of transactions and products entering the branch. But I will have another Christmas in this small shop.”
Currently, L’Imaginaire’s store utilizes 22,000 square feet of space spread over two floors, but four floors, the store has two smaller floors. With the older buildings located on the third floor that it will retain to accommodate its offices, it will increase to 38,000 square feet of space.
Opened in 1986, L’Imaginaire’s store in Lorient Quebec has never stopped booming. Mr. Doyon mentioned that his first store was 160 square feet. This space was smaller than his working area in the coin department of his current store. So the first expansion took place in 1988. It was followed by four more carried out in 1992, 1997, 2004 and 2014. The next expansion will therefore be the sixth in the history of the store which, at the same time, opened branches in Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivieres, Levis and San Bruno. Success gives the employer a feeling he says he finds hard to describe. And tell us why.
“In 1992, I went to see a shopkeeper in Montreal to tell him I had a small shop in Quebec and to offer him an association to buy and make certain products marketed in Europe. Come to Quebec. […] The guy gave me a good straight chin, and said to me, “I’m in Montreal, I’m the store, but you’re in Quebec, you’re like a convenience store.” My offer was rejected. When I returned to Quebec, I was very sad. I felt like I was doomed to be pocket sized and average and more or less believe in what I was doing.
“After a few years, I closed and I rather grew up. My feeling of success, but also… It’s hard to explain. I had a lot of little pitfalls. Since I was in Quebec, I think it was more difficult. You had to work a little harder. To be able to play in the major leagues.”
Mr. Doyon believes that without the pandemic, new L’Imaginaire stores would have been possible. He explained that since his two sons Dave and Anthony arrived at the company, L’Imaginaire has been at a much faster pace in terms of expansion. Three new branches are likely to open in the next five years, he said, adding that Montreal will be ready, in his opinion, for two or three stores. The businessman noted that L’Imaginaire can even enter certain markets with the help of franchisees.
“Franchises, though, are a whole different world. There’s a lot of things to think about. We’re in conversations with a few possibilities, but we’re not in that direction at the moment. We want to go, but we want to do it with confidence that we’re putting our feet up.” In the right place, that we have the right people, the right products and the right place. I still believe a lot in malls. The hybrid model will work even harder.”
Referring to the next expansion of his store in Laurier Quebec, Mr. Doyon said this would likely be the last. “I don’t think I will be one from 2027-2029. I think I will give my place to someone else. However, I still enjoy working in the store just as much. Sometimes I come to spend my days off there. Being in the store is not a big deal. And I think I will continue to be there. in L’Imaginaire for several more years.”