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Samsonite Canada to build 140,000 square foot facility for Canadian distribution headquarters behind Festival City Marketplace Mall

By Megan Stacey, Beacon Herald

STRATFORD - Samsonite is breaking ground on a new headquarters and warehouse facility in the city's east end.

The 13,000 square metre (141,000 square foot) space is slated to open in spring 2018 and will employ between 50 and 60 people.

The facility, to be built behind the Festival City Marketplace Mall on C.H. Meier Boulevard, will include a retail outlet, offices, showroom and a warehouse and will act as the Canadian distribution headquarters for Samsonite.

“We've been working on this for quite a while, probably close to five or six years now,” said Samsonite Canada general manager Paul DeCorso, adding he's glad to see the company remain in the Festival City.

“(Although) corporate had me looking at several different options including, God forbid, leaving Stratford, the important decision was made to stay here,” he said.

And that's a huge win for the city's economic development.

“It's a logistics world. We're not on the 401, but they've opted to make a very sizable investment in a warehouse distribution centre in Stratford. That also speaks to the value proposition Stratford brings,” said mayor Dan Mathieson.

“To see that they want to make a large investment speaks to the business climate, but also how deep-rooted they are in the business community.”

Samsonite has 60 years of history in Stratford – it's home.

“There's certainly an emotional side, but then there's the business side. In reality there was a good case to stay for both. The primary reason to stay is our people,” DeCorso said. “We've got all kinds of stories here where people's parents worked here and grandparents worked here. We have a good base of good people who are important to our business.”

The company is growing rapidly, making the need for a larger space all the more urgent.

“We went from being a $20 million company back in 2009 to being a $60 million company now. It's like triple growth in about six years,” said DeCorso.

Samsonite's Ontario Street facility isn't tiny – more than 11,500 square metres (125,000 square feet) – but it's simply been outgrown.

“The ceiling height here is 18 feet, because it was built as a production facility by the founder of the company back in 18-foot ceiling in today's environment just is not efficient to run a good warehouse facility. You've got to go high. So that was the driving force,” DeCorso said.

Samsonite considered moving to the Wright Business Park on the other side of the city, but couldn't picture a retail store in that location.

“We could have split the store and we looked at that, but it just didn't have the right feel,” said DeCorso.

Finding the perfect solution was a long process, but worth it for all the players involved.

“This site is 90 per cent perfect. It will never be 100 per cent, but it's still in a good area for us,” DeCorso said. “There is also is an ability to expand that facility another 44,000 square feet.”

Stratford is overjoyed to have Samsonite maintain its presence in the city, Mathieson said.

“Retention of a local business is important. In a climate where we see consolidating of operations into other facilities, it's nice that we're able to keep one within our community,” he said.

And that success can paint a powerful picture for other potential investors.

“We can now use them as an example to other companies looking at warehouse and logistics, to say 'look, you can come here and make it work,'” Mathieson said.

“Samsonite, a very large, international brand believes we're a good place to do business from.”

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