TELUS focuses on the connected lifestyle with its new store at Edmonton’s Southgate Centre

In today’s world, the smartphone is at the centre of almost every digital experience. In addition to a smartphone, many of us carry headphones, perhaps a battery pack, a fitness tracker, and maybe even a cable or two. The smartphone itself connects to a whole world of other devices on top of that, like so-called “smart” locks, thermostats, speakers, and video cameras. Can TELUS capitalize on this brave new world with its new store to change the way you buy electronics and perhaps make TELUS your preferred partner for the connected lifestyle?

Back in 2008 I wrote about the brand new Future Shop in South Edmonton Common, described at the time as “the future of Future Shop”. It was a curious time to be launching a fancy new electronics store – just a month or so before it opened, Circuit City down in the US had filed for bankruptcy protection. The Source had recently shut down more than 60 stores across the country and its parent company InterTAN had just filed for bankruptcy protection too. It took a bit longer until Best Buy felt the effects of online shopping, but in the last five years they’ve been hit hard with declining revenue (though recently have become profitable again). Earlier this year, Best Buy discontinued the Future Shop brand and closed 66 locations across the country, including that store in South Edmonton Common. And down in the US, RadioShack filed for bankruptcy protection too. It has been a rough decade for bricks & mortar electronics retailers.

But maybe it’s too easy to blame online shopping and showrooming for the difficulties facing Best Buy. The Apple Store has had incredible success during that same time period and is still expanding today, and others like Microsoft have followed suit with their own stores. Why go to Best Buy when you can go right to the source? Not to mention the experience of shopping at a Best Buy is nothing like shopping at an Apple Store. Maybe there’s hope for electronics retailers after all?

New TELUS Store at Southgate

It’s with all that in mind that I accepted an invitation to check out the new TELUS Store at Southgate Centre here in Edmonton. I joined fellow blogger Nugglemama for a tour of the new space, located directly across from the old TELUS Store near the stairs in the southeast part of the mall. Marc Jamieson, Director of Marketing, Merchandising, and Design at TELUS and Koodo, was in town to show us around and to explain all of the features of the new store.

New TELUS Store at Southgate

The existing TELUS Store at Southgate was about 640 square feet, and it’s safe to say it was a traditional phone company store (it will soon become a Koodo store). Most of the space inside was dedicated to counters where you’d spend lots of time waiting for a phone activation. There was very little product on display, and the whole environment was fairly uninviting. A few years ago TELUS launched its “G2” stores to try to change that perception. They were larger, brighter, and featured more phones and a limited amount of other merchandise, like cases and chargers. But they also made heavy use of digital screens and more or less kept the same core interaction – a TELUS employee on one side of a desk and you on the other. I’ve visited the G2 store at Edmonton City Centre a few times, and while it has always been a positive experience, I do find the store somewhat unfriendly thanks to the cold surfaces and dozens of screens.

New TELUS Store at Southgate

Now TELUS is introducing a new generation of store with some much bigger changes. The new Southgate store and the new store at Toronto’s Eaton Centre are “Connected Experience concept stores” that TELUS says “are an evolution of our retail shopping journey.” There are currently no plans for additional new stores, but if these two are successful you can bet that will change.

“There’s no doubt that our smartphones are a central part of our lives and how we’re using them changes almost daily – from listening to tunes, to tracking our fitness to monitoring our home – our devices can really enrich our lives. With our new Connected Experience stores we’ve created a playground where customers can touch, test and play with more than 1,000 specially curated products that help enhance their digitally connected life.”

The new TELUS Store is the largest in Canada at roughly 3,400 square feet. It officially opened on October 21, just eight months after the original concept was created (the Eaton Centre store opened October 14). It features a bold green exterior and a wide entrance, and is immediately more welcoming than previous stores. As you walk in a greeter will say hello, and you’ll find the store roughly split in half. The left side is where you can go to quickly purchase merchandise, and the right side is where you’ll go to sign up for a TELUS service.

New TELUS Store at Southgate

But perhaps the most obvious difference from other TELUS stores is the array of non-TELUS products on display and available for purchase. You can’t miss the Fitbit and Nest displays, for instance. The new TELUS Store features a series of categories, each with an anchor product partner. You’ll find:

  • Health & Fitness, anchored by Fitbit
  • Audio, anchored by Beats
  • Essentials, anchored by Mophie
  • Fashion, anchored by Kate Spade
  • Devices, anchored by Apple and Samsung
  • Lifestyle, anchored by GoPro
  • Home, anchored by Nest and Optik

Each category anchor can change over time, and there are more brands available in each. For instance, there is also Sonos, Bang & Olufsen, Jaybird, and many others available in Audio alongside Beats. The Fashion section (bags and cases) features Kate Spade but also Ted Baker and Rebecca Minkoff. Prices are comparable to other retailers.

New TELUS Store at Southgate

The items you’ll find at the TELUS store are all connected to the smartphone in some way. Fitbits, headphones, Mophies, Nest, and even toy drones, are all things you pair with your smartphone. I asked Marc if there were some things that just don’t belong in a TELUS store, noting the lack of laptops. Marc said that “there are things we have decided not to focus on, and laptops are one of those things.” He noted that even the tablet display was pretty basic. The focus is on “connected experience” devices – things you need a smartphone to get the most out of.

The new store is staffed more heavily than other stores, and all the staff have been trained on how to use all of the various products available. There’s a real focus on demoing, so you’re invited to try everything on display, and the staff all carry devices with the necessary software to show you how things work. I asked Marc if he was worried about showrooming, and he said he’s so confident in the training of the reps that he’s not concerned.

New TELUS Store at Southgate

There are some pretty cool displays to help with all that demoing, like the interactive sound bar for wireless speakers. It uses an app built by Stingray Music to allow you to compare different speakers and different styles of music. Above each table are attractive sound-dampening features, something you’ll find throughout the store actually.

New TELUS Store at Southgate

The new store has incorporated lots of feedback based on previous stores and also research that TELUS has done at its retail lab in Scarborough. There’s more quantity and variety of seating, because customers often spend a lot of time in the store. While the G2 stores featured Optik and other Future Friendly Home devices, they were hidden away. The new store puts them out in the open so that customers can better envision how the boxes will fit into their homes. There’s also a kid-friendly area and lots of carpet in the store. Instead of a single retail counter, there are eight point-of-sale stations throughout the store.

New TELUS Store at Southgate

Near the front of the store you’ll find a recharge station for your mobile device, and on the tables throughout the store are wireless charging pads (which my Lumia worked with immediately). There’s also free Wi-Fi at the store, though it wasn’t working on the day I visited. All of these things are open to all, even non TELUS subscribers!

To celebrate the grand opening of the new stores in Edmonton and Toronto, TELUS is offering 15% off accessories until November 23. They’re also encouraging you to share your experience on social media using the hashtag #ExploreTELUS. If you do, you’ll be entered to win one of the prizes they’re giving away weekly until December 14.

So, will I shop there?

I really liked the new store. It feels warm and welcoming especially when compared with its predecessors. There’s a lot to see and do in the store, and it definitely will feel approachable to anyone who likes the Apple Store in that it is experiential. When I made the comparison, Marc felt strongly that “aesthetically they are different” however, even if only thanks to the liberal use of the green and purple brand colors.

I can’t see myself buying my next Fitbit at the new TELUS Store, however. When it comes to electronics, I do a lot of research online. I compare and read and watch reviews and look up specs. I dig into forums and sift through social media to see what real people are saying and what issues they’ve run into. Then when I know exactly what I want to buy, I look around and compare prices. Often Amazon wins, especially as I’m a Prime member. The new TELUS Store isn’t competing on price and despite promises that the staff are exceptionally well-trained, I’m skeptical that they’ll have the level of knowledge that I would be looking for.

That said, as a TELUS mobile customer (since the Clearnet days!) I like the idea of a flagship store and would definitely visit the next time I need a SIM card or to talk with someone about my plan. It’s the same reason why I visit the Apple Store or the Microsoft Store – I expect a better experience and the flagship stores offer that.

But I’m probably not the target customer anyway. Marc mentioned that the new store has seen a large increase in foot traffic, and it’s the folks that are either casually looking or not willing to do all of that research that are the real target for TELUS. Have a smartphone and interested in getting an activity tracker? Head to the TELUS Store and they can help you get setup with the one that works best with your device.

It’s unlikely that selling Fitbits or Nests is going to measurably impact the $12 billion in revenue that TELUS generates each year. But if the new store can indeed become a hub for customers looking for the connected lifestyle, then it could positively impact wireless, Internet, and Optik subscriptions which is what TELUS really wants. The new store is about creating that halo effect. Will the new TELUS store be the last of its kind or the start of a successful strategy shift? Time will tell!

Win a Nest or Jaybird X2!

After I visted the store, TELUS was kind enough to send me a gift basket. Included inside were a couple of pretty expensive items which would be inappropriate for me to keep, so I’m giving them away to two lucky readers!

Nest and Jaybird X2

To enter my contest, simply leave a comment below by November 30 telling me how you currently like to purchase electronics and if you plan to shop at the new TELUS store. I’ll draw two valid email addresses at random from the comments and will contact the winners on December 1. Just in time to help with your Christmas shopping!

  • Bryan

    While I used to always jump to Box stores like Best Buy and Futureshop, I find myself moving away from that one stop shop experience and going straight to the source – especially Apple and Telus rather than using 3rd party. I still prefer in-person buying, but to order stuff when it’s convenient or necessary like the Apple Watch on launch I’ll buy online. I’m sure I’ll check out the new Telus store soon

  • Gabriel Yeung

    Definitely check out the new store…but usually i buy stuff online after reading reviews. Things are usually cheaper online anyways!

  • Occasionally I’ll use physical stores to ‘touch’ items, but the majority of my purchases are online. And yes, Southgate is an easy destination, so I’ll swing by and check it out.

  • Annie Fung

    I used to LOVE FutureShop…often, browsing meant I end up buying something that I wasn’t looking for in the first place. As money got tighter (*cough* 2 mortgages) and necessity, I’ve been doing most of my research online just like you. Even if I am at the store, I’d cross-check on my phone before I buy. The Apple Store experience is unbeatable in terms of service but honestly, the amount of crowds in there often put me off. The old Telus stores were very cold and impersonal as you mentioned…I think it will definitely intimidate people at times. I’m encouraged by the new pictures though that you posted from the new store…I would definitely browse there. Perhaps there might not be a sale but with another place in Southgate selling accessories, I might go in there to buy something out of convenience anyway. 🙂 Thanks for the review. Will visit next time I’m there.

  • Darren

    I research and read reviews online, but prefer to buy in-store when possible. I will definitely check the new Telus store out when it’s time to upgrade my phone.

  • The new store certainly looks way more inviting than the previous one. Definitely follows the interactive style which is nice for consumers so they can actually touch, feel, and envision the device in their hands or in their homes. Like you, after much research I usually purchase my electronics online. However, I am also a Telus mobile customer so I am likely going to purchase something there soon as my contract with them is coming to a close shortly.

  • I do plenty of research beforehand and reading lots of reviews on Amazon or even seeing if people are listing the item on eBay/Kijiji (if there are a lot of the items on the site, that’s not necessarily a positive signal). After that then it’s just a matter of whoever has the best service and price combination. It’s always good to actually see the devices in person rather than just reading about them online so I’ll definitely swing by the Telus store in the near future.

  • Douglas Dollars

    I tend to buy most electronics through NewEgg, Amazon, or (the seemingly inevitable) Monoprice, but having the TELUS store in Southgate would definitely mean a shorter trip for some goods (such as the Nest) I would take. There aren’t enough of these small/generalized computing stores that we used to see.

  • Andrew

    Usually Amazon as I am a prime member. I do a lot of reading on a larger ticket item before purchasing it for the most part. If I can’t get it at Amazon I’ll usually find another online store. One of my biggest pet peeves is going to a brick and mortar and them not having the item I want or the size I want. Not a Telus customer so likely won’t be shopping in the new store.

  • Luc Tremblay

    I usually shop online for the convenience but I would rather shop in store especially if the employees are knowledgeable on their products. I will give the new Telus store a try.

  • Melveena

    I think I’ve seen you at malls taking pictures because I do the same at my page at http://www.saveymommy.com haha! Anyways I’ve been searching out the Fitbit and glad you briefly wrote about it as it is a purchase I was thinking of making at some point. Great blog well done!!

  • Rick Tuson

    Good article. I would definitely shop at the telus store. When I buy electronics I’ll shop anywhere. Online or in a store. The experience is part of the purchase.

  • sentinel23

    I mostly buy everything online these days, but I’ll certainly check out that store when I’m in the area next.

  • I buy most of my electronics electronically. Amazon wins a lot. That being said buying at an Apple Store for instant gratification and no waiting on shipping is also in the mix. I think Telus venturing into the connected home space is a smart move as people need a place to have real humans discuss this stuff. Buying home automation stuff at Home Depot is just for hardcore nerds and even online it’s daunting for much of the public.

  • Trafton Koenig

    I normally do a fare amount of research online before I make an electronics purchase, but I also love demoing things so I will definitely check out the new Telus shop when I am in Southgate next.

  • Serge Bourgoin

    I don’t like buying at the big box stores like Best Buy because the service is just not there after buying the item if you have technical problems. So I always like to directly in the provider’s store. After seeing this post I will go and check out this new store in Southgate. I am currently with Bell and I just had a couple issues with them recently. I am going to be needing to get a new phone for my wife so I will definitely have to check them out.

  • Stuart Kehrig

    I think I may buck the trend a little but not doing my online research first.

    I like to browse the big box stores so I can physically see the item. Then I go home and do some research online through blogs, amazon reviews etc. After that, for small ticket items I will usually buy online (I bought a baby monitor and digital thermometer online just yesterday) for big items I will purchase from the store (X-box one in a couple of weeks).

  • Sandy Fitzgerald

    Thanks to the information provided on your blog I will be sure to check
    out the new store. I buy a lot of my stuff online, but would like to
    check out. Like the idea of seeing all stuff interested in one place,
    things that I can do with my phone.

  • dingmah

    I like to purchase electronics in person from Best Buy or Costco, because if there’s are any issues with the product, I can return it to the store without hassle. I will definitely stop by the new Telus store next time I’m at Southgate.

  • freethebananas

    Purchasing Electonics? In-person at the store. I like to browse what’s available.
    Shopping at new Telus store? Yes.

  • version3

    I prefer to order online but typically from Bestbuy for ease of returns if needed. Will stop by the telus store next time I’m in the mall to check it out.

  • Stamos Ali

    When shopping for electronics I usually do a lot of research online first. I’m looking for pictures, reviews, prices. I sometimes visit a local store to check the time in person. Depending on the price and if it’s only marginal more at the store I’ll buy it there and then to support local people and jobs. Unfortunately often the price online is much lower. I will go check out the new Telus store though. It’s sounds like a interesting concept and sort of unique.

  • Laura Young

    I took my dad to a Telus store to teach him to use his smart phone. What a wonderful experience. This Christmas I am hooking my mom up the same way. Love the look of the new store.

  • Adam Rozenhart

    I get most of my electronics from Amazon as well. Sometimes, I’ll try BestBuy, but I’m not usually a fan of their prices. When I purchase from BestBuy, though, as much as I can I try and pick-up my order in-store.

    I’ll defintely check out the new TELUS store, though!

  • reileycat

    I usually stick to online shopping. I can’t say I’ve been into an electronics store in years. But it looks cool and if it’s anything like the Shaw store in Southgate (in terms of assistance and customer service), it may do ok.

  • Rene Lessard

    Thanks for this blog. I am sure to go check this out. Please enter me for the draw on the Nest. I was going to get one so this is timely.

  • Jon Holt

    My first comment after reading your twitter post was, why? Thanks for the transparency in your post…sometimes I wonder at why some bloggers are giving things away.

    • Of course! I don’t blog for money and I always do my best to disclose. I am working on a proper disclosure policy actually!

  • Leanne Bohme

    I mostly do my electronics shopping online as I can check out reviews and price match. But I will likely give the new store a look next time I’m at Southgate!

  • Chen

    Very cool design, def need to check it out! However I would less likely to purchase from a physical store, because most of my electronic items are brought from online, mostly are from Amazon prime because their hassle free return.

  • Mark Zacharias

    I usually hit up amazon for eletronics, like you I like to do some research before purchasing anything over $150. I’ll likely stop by the store while I’m in the mall just to check it out during the shopping season but that’s about it.

  • Vlad Slavov

    When it comes to electronics, I always check out the online reviews even if a good % of them are paid reviews. Take it with a grain of salt. I usually see what’s available on eBay or other e-stores before visiting a store. With that said, I’d consider stopping by Telus’ new store to check out some shiny new gadgets.

  • Matthew Berry

    I went in yesterday to check it out after reading this and I definitely think it’s an improved shopping experience. It does give you a sense of how all the various options work together, particularly the smart home components.

  • Darlene Bodnar

    I am always more comfortable shopping for electronics face to face with people. I’ll be visiting the new store soon.

  • Gary Wicentowich

    Thanks Mack – great post as always!

  • Kaleb Dell

    I actually prefer, whenever possible, to shop at as specific a shop as I can . Buy my phones in-store (when possible… getting harder as a WinPhone user) and if I *can* buy a console/device in a store I will. I hate waiting for shipping (yes, even 24 hours) and so going into a well designed store with stock always is a win for me.

    Doubly so if the staff is knowledgable. I want to highlight that since, if I have trouble finding a salesperson or the one I get seems more interested in upselling than solving my problem/questions or is disinterested, I will leave so I don’t accidentally give commission to that individual.

    As for Telus store specifically? I have now been with Rogers since I had to move there for the iPhone 3 launch. This creates a large barrier as I have a $68 dollar plan that gives me 6Gb transfer and I am loathe to give that up.

    But Rogers stores keep on being smaller and (anecdotally) staffed by less-than-interested individuals and have less coverage (northern Sask/other camping spots) so a store like this definitely strengthens the “give Telus a try” argument.