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Simons department store using sailboat to import designer goods

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WATCH ABOVE: Simons, the Quebec clothing and home store, is importing merchandise from France via sail boat in an effort to better protect the environment. Global's Raquel Fletcher reports – Aug 1, 2016

On Monday, Quebec-based department store Simons received its latest shipment of high-end, designer goods from France.

But what was even more unique than what was in the 96 boxes, was how they arrived: no fossil fuels were consumed.

“It’s one of the main sources of pollution – the transporting of merchandise over the ocean,” said Philippe Normand, Simons’ vice-president of marketing.

The solution came to them in the wind – literally – on a nearly 55-metre sailboat.

READ MORE: Quebec’s Simons has big plans to win stylish shoppers across Canada

Customers in Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver can now purchase zero emission products, delivered by sailboat, transported to the store in one of Teo Taxi’s electric cars.

“I think it’s really important for our kids, our grand kids,” said Melanie Biron, Teo Taxi business coordinator.

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Sail transport cuts carbon emissions by 90 per cent, but currently, it’s just a small slice of Simons’ inventory.

One reason is that it takes more than twice as long as conventional shipping.

“It took eight weeks because we had no wind and we had major storms. We have to follow Mother Nature with sailboats,” Normand explained.

Normand said, from a financial stand point, there’s another challenge.

“If you take the boats that are doing it on a commercial basis, there’s 19,000 containers on one boat. This [the Picton Castle] is just half a container, to give you a scale of perspective.”

READ MORE: Simons set to open first Ontario store 

However, another proponent of sail transport is confident the industry will grow.

“Now we’re looking at building larger ships, 60 metres, carrying 1,000 tonnes,” said Guillaume Le Grand, founder of France-based Trans Oceanic Wind Transport (TOWT).

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TOWT has been operating in Europe for five years.

It hopes to partner with the Quebec Liquor Board, the SAQ to import European wine and sail back with Quebec maple syrup.

READ MORE: Department store Simons banks on expansion to defy retail woes

“What we do has nothing to do with marketing. It’s about saving tremendous amounts of CO2 right now and they can do it with us,” Le Grand said.

In the meantime, Normand said he’s happy for Simons to set the trend.

The plan is to expand the project in the next year by exporting products by Quebec designers to France.

Simons will also focus on importing more “green” products, such as clothing made with organic material.

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