Women in business

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Two business women, two successful businesses.



What are your main duties at Ivanhoé Cambridge?

I oversee operations for shopping centres across Quebec and Ontario. That’s close to 5.5 million square feet spread over the cities of Quebec, Montreal, Sherbrooke and Ottawa. I also manage over one hundred Ivanhoé Cambridge employees working in these shopping centres.

What new challenges are shopping centres fac­ing when it comes to their long-term viability?

We’re aware that the way people live, work and play is constantly evolving. We also know that the shopping expe­rience begins in consumers’ homes, where they research products online before heading to the store to buy them. We keep ourselves up to date on the latest initiatives to help improve the customer’s shopping experience based on their needs and expectations. Take the Montreal Eaton Centre for example. Last holiday season they participated in a pilot project in which their window displays were interactive. The goal of these interactive displays was to help consumers find gifts and make shopping during the busiest time of the year a little less stressful. And the project was a huge success.

In your opinion, is the City of Montreal facil­itating the implementation of shopping cen­tres?

Montreal is anticipating the arrival of some 50,000 new residents between now and 2030. Additional commercial and office space will be needed to meet this major influx. Mayor Coderre’s administration is working on accom­pl ishing this feat. For Ivanhoé Cambridge, investing in downtown Montreal is a priority. We’ve com­mitted to investing 1 billion dollars in our properties, including Place Vi l le Marie and the Esplanade, Maison Manuvie, Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth and the Montreal Eaton Centre, between now and 2020. In my opinion, the munici­pal administration is dynamic and it needs to continue working with the city’s retailers and promoters in order to revitalize the McGill/ Sainte-Catherine artery—the heart of the city. We’ve come a long way in the past few years, but we still have lots to do before Montrealers get their downtown core back, especially outside office hours.

How is the implementation of Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5TH in Montreal coming along?

Slated to make its Montreal debut in the fall of 2018, Saks Fifth Avenue will take up residence in the Montreal Eaton Centre, on the corner of Robert Bourassa and Maisonneuve, in what used to be Les Ailes. With its two stories and 4,181 square metres (45,000 square feet) of floor space, the big-name retailer will help solidify the Eaton Centre’s place as the city’s number one shopping destination.




In Alexandria, Egypt, Georges Laoun was already an optician. Now living in Quebec, he’s still an expert in his field and has been providing quality eye care since he first opened his store back in 1983. Today, he has two stores (one in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and another on Saint-Denis) and what really sets both of them apart from the competition is that they don’t just sell frames and offer vision care. The company also supports and encourages local artists by turning its bou­tiques into veritable art galleries. Today, Laoun’s daughter Anne-Marie presides over the family business.

How did you become so interested in the arts, what with being in retail and all?

It all began with my brother Sherif, who was in love with art. He had a lot of artist friends and one day he decided to showcase their creations and pieces in my father’s shop. And that was 27 years ago. Today, the arts are ingrained in our DNA; they’re an integral part of who we are. We’ve been awarded the Arts-Business Award by the City of Montreal, as well as the Governor General’s Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts.

How are you involved in the arts?

I’m very involved. Last year, Arts-Affaires, a Montreal organization that enables partnerships between artists and businesses, asked me to act as their contest ambassador. Each month, we continue to feature an artist in each of our stores. If an artist sells a piece, all the money goes to the artist. We never take a percentage of their sales.

How do you choose which artists and pieces to feature?

Approximately 300 artists come to us each year, asking us to showcase their work. When making our selection, we try to keep a good balance between new artists who are often unknown and those who are already well established, like the renowned painter Marcel H. Poirier. I think a person’s relationship to art is a very personal one. It’s a question of taste and that’s also the beauty of art. Personally, I like to discover new things, to be surprised. My home is filled with many pieces by artists we have featured over the years.


Texte: Benjamin Abba


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