A look at Edmonton’s new Future Shop

Tonight I had the opportunity to tour Edmonton’s newest Future Shop, located in South Edmonton Common. The 53,000 square foot building is easily the largest Future Shop in existence, nearly double the size of the average store. The new Edmonton store is the result of more than two years of planning, design work, and customer consultation to come up with the future of Future Shop. That’s a tall order, but I came away impressed.

New Future Shop in Edmonton

About a dozen of my fellow social media experts were invited to check out the new store this evening. We split into two groups to tour the building. General Manager Chris Sallans led my group, and did an excellent job of describing the decisions that were made and what the vision is for the new store. He and his fellow Future Shop colleagues answered all of our questions along the way. We each received a gift bag at the end (containing a Jabra Noise Blackout BT530 Bluetooth Headset), as well as light refreshments. I was a little disappointed when I got to the store to find that it was already open to the public, but by the end I had come to appreciate the way they planned things. Nearly a dozen employees were at our disposal, and in retrospect it would have seemed creepy and oddly quiet if we were the only ones inside the gigantic building!

The layout of the store is quite simple. There’s a large circular area in the centre known as ConnectPro. It’s broken into Play, Work, On The Go, and Living. Associates in the circle are there solely to help you figure the technology out, they aren’t meant to sell you anything. The other sections are located around the circle, along the edge of the building. Counterclockwise as you enter: cell phones are followed by computers (with the onsite garage for auto entertainment behind), the Mac section, home entertainment and televisions, the new musical instruments section, gaming and media, appliances, fitness, and finally the checkout counters.

The musical instruments section was our “home base” for the evening, fitting as it is the most unique part of the new Future Shop design. I’m not an instrument geek, but it seemed really impressive. In total it’s about 2500 square feet. The far wall is full of guitars, and other instruments are in the middle. There are two sound-proof rooms in the back for drums and acoustic guitars (this one also has special temperature and humidity controls). Near the front are computer workstations where customers can riff on a guitar and burn a CD using Garage Band or other popular software. Very cool.

New Future Shop in EdmontonNew Future Shop in Edmonton

The Mac section of the store is about 2000 square feet, and features a Genius Bar staffed by an Apple employee from Wednesday to Sunday. Not that I expected it to, but the Mac section just doesn’t compare to an actual Mac store. It felt out of place sandwiched between the televisions and computer software.

I think my least favorite section of the store was the cell phone section. Maybe it’s because of the ongoing construction, but it didn’t seem to offer anything beyond what every other electronics retailer has. I appreciate the desks and chairs for customers and employees to sign contracts and all that, but the phone displays themselves still seemed rather mundane.

My favorite sections were the ConnectPro, which seemed very open and inviting, and the gaming trees (there are three of them located throughout the store). With about 46 television screens of varying sizes on each tree, you can’t help but stop and gawk for a few minutes. I can’t imagine how much power they use, but the trees are very visually appealing and functional.

I asked about the checkout counters, as that is usually the most frustrating part of any store for me. I hate line-ups. Chris said there are eight sales tills, and eight customer service tills, up from the usual two. In addition, the lanes are far wider than normal. He said that the onus is on him to ensure customers are moved through efficiently.

Here’s a quick walk through the store from start to finish:

A few other notes on the store:

  • They are going for a Silver level LEED certification with the new building.
  • There will be completely free and open Wi-Fi in the store starting Friday, under a “Future Shop” SSID. We tried it tonight but it wasn’t fully operational (only local access).
  • I asked about parking, and although they said they had the largest lot in South Common, it doesn’t look any bigger than Wal-Mart’s, and definitely not bigger than Ikea’s. It certainly has far more parking than Best Buy though. As an aside, Sharon doesn’t think it’s right for a building that you have to drive to to be LEED certified!
  • The main difference between the Appliances section in the new store and what Future Shop’s already have, is the way they are displayed. Instead of ovens on shelves, think built out kitchens similar to what you’d find in Home Depot.

The store soft-opened on Sunday afternoon, but the grand opening is from Friday, December 5th until Sunday, December 7th. The first 100 people in line will receive a free gift card of $5, $25, or $50 and there are a ton of door crasher deals. There’s also a Rock Band competition taking place, with the winner getting a chance to take on Gene Simmons on Saturday! On Sunday, Oilers captain Ethan Moreau will be there signing autographs.

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Thanks to Future Shop and Capulet for the opportunity to check out the store! I think there are some really unique aspects to it, and I look forward to hearing the reaction from other Edmontonians. You can see all my photos and video at Flickr.

Edmonton is home to the future of Future Shop

future shop Edmonton is getting another Future Shop location, just in time for Christmas. The new store will be quite different than our existing five, however, and not just because it is LEED certified. Located in South Edmonton Common just minutes away from Best Buy (which owns Future Shop), the new store will fill its gigantic 53,000 square foot space with musical instruments, exercise equipment, and other goods not normally found at Future Shop. From the Edmonton Journal:

“This is the future of Future Shop,” said Chris Sallans, general manager of a store so revolutionary, he calls it a “laboratory.” If the concepts work, it will serve as a template for the Burnaby, B.C.-based chain’s stores around the country.

Essentially they want to sell things that are “logical extensions” of products that they already carry. Makes sense to me. Future Shop already sells microwaves, refrigerators, and other home appliances, so why not treadmills and other exercise equipment? Doesn’t seem like much of a stretch. I guess the innovation is in having the much larger capacity.

The music angle is quite interesting though:

Electronic music instruments and equipment may also seem to be an unlikely choice, but Sallans said it’s a wide-open market.

“Musical instruments are an $800-million industry and no other major retailer touches it.”

The store will have a wall of more than 100 guitars. There will be three soundproof rooms for music lessons and drum demos ,and a stage for open-mike nights.

That could be pretty cool, I think. Who knows, maybe Future Shop will even become a bit of a third place (or maybe not, considering you’ll basically need to drive to get there…good old South Edmonton Common).

According to the article, Sallan describes Future Shop as the place for early adopters whereas Best Buy is the place for self-service shoppers. I’m not sure where he got that idea, but I seem to recall the lines at Best Buy being much longer than at Future Shop for high profile product launches (like the Xbox 360).

The new store is looking for 230 employees, and will be holding a job fair this weekend at the Delta Hotel Edmonton South. It should open in early December.