If there is one similarity between running a clothing store in Calgary, and running an oil and gas business, it’s the way fierce but friendly competition forces you to up your game. The retail landscape (heck, the whole landscape) of Calgary has changed dramatically since I joined O’Connors Men’s & Women’s Clothing & Footwear in the late nineties.
Like my brothers and sisters, I worked for my father growing up – sweeping floors and counting inventory in the basement. In May 1998, I had just finished my career playing pro hockey, with a brief stint in the NHL and decided to enter the family business full time. After several years on the sales floor, I got into the buying end and found out very quickly how much our industry reinvents itself from season to season.
And it’s not just fashion that changes. Innovations and inventions in fabrication, tailoring and inventory management have been almost as dramatic as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (OK, maybe not that dramatic). So, I definitely brought a younger eye to the fashion end of our business, but my other main contribution to growing a store that has been around since 1958 was updating, streamlining and even creating management and purchasing practices more in step with today’s technological advancements.
By far the biggest step in our history was the decision in 2002 to move out of the downtown core and into a custom built freestanding store in the vibrant and growing community of Victoria Crossing. At over 12 000 square feet, O’Connors is one of the largest independent retailers in Canada. Fall 2007 saw us grow again. The Women’s store moved across the street to a new, larger space. Menswear expanded, and launched the ANNEX – an exciting new concept focused on premium denim and cutting edge urban streetwear.
Many people thought we were crazy to move out of the core. But after fourteen years – and our own on-site complimentary customer parking lot (!) we’ve never looked back.
I’m very proud of the people I get to work with. Some of the sales associates and tailors have been with the store years, and even decades, longer than myself, and they have been as much mentors as colleagues.
More than fifty years on, O’Connors is pleased to be a part of the retail landscape of Calgary and I look forward to us being here for the next fifty. From business owners and executives, politicians and rig workers, we are constantly grateful for your patronage and goodwill.
Article originally featured in OilfieldPULSE’s April 2014 issue (Pages 68-69).