Future shop gives 53,000 sq. ft. middle finger to recession

This past Wednesday evening Alan and I got the opportunity to get a tour of the new Future Shop in South Edmonton Common. They gave us food, a tour, and a free bluetooth headset in the interests of biasing our opinions.

This store is massive. It’s more than double the size of an average Future Shop. Imagine a Costco-sized warehouse dedicated to electronics.

But they weren’t going to settle with being the largest store, this is also a special pilot store where they plan on introducing new product lines and feeling out new markets.

The store now sells musical instruments. Guitars, amps, drums, turntables, and connectivity solutions to record it all on your computer. And this isn’t just no-name brands, for guitars they had Washburn and Yamaha, with Fender on the way and deals in the works with Gibson, for amps they have Line 6, Crate, and Vox. They have a wall of electric guitars, a quiet room for acoustic guitars, a room to test drum sets, and finally, a room for music lessons they plan to offer.

On top of all of this, the instruments are all hands on. You can grab any guitar from the wall (including the $3000 ones), plug them in to any amp (including the stacks) and just try them out. The same goes for the acoustics, keyboards, and electronic drum sets. There also seemed to be little pressure from sales staff in this section, which was nice.

Also new to this location was the sale of fitness equipment. Since many new treadmills and stationary bikes are now coming equipped with TVs, they felt it was a perfect fit. The area wasn’t completely finished when I saw it, but it looked promising.

They were also putting on the finishing touches (contractors were working at 7 PM) on their appliance displays. These displays will be model kitchens so that you can see what the appliances actually look like in sample kitchens.

In the centre of the store they are also trying out another new method of interaction. They’ve hired a number of staff members whose sole job is to answer tech questions. They can’t sell products, but can refer you to sales staff if you so desire. The idea here is that if you want to figure out how to get that new digital camera to work with a printer that they’ll help you out.

Finally, there were three towers called “trees” around the store. These trees consisted of numerous plasma displays climbing to the roof. At the base were between 4 and 6 stations where you could interact with the tree. One was dedicated to console gaming, so a Wii, XBOX and Playstation were all hooked up (and the monitors would display different screens from each). Another tree was dedicated to computer gaming, and they had low, mid, high end desktops and laptops hooked up. I was impressed here that they didn’t just stick the killer systems on to pretend that’s how all computers play. The final tree was dedicated to cellular providers, and showed ads from the various cell phone companies. This tree also had a bluetooth hub so if you’re bluetooth was on and you walked by you’d receive a message from Future Shop (perhaps an ad for sales or just a “Hello”).

Overall this was an impressive store. You could easily spend a long day in there just roaming the various sections. And for someone who’s always had a soft spot for shopping at the box retailer, I must say that I was very pleased.