I had to go to an Apple store at a suburban mall today to get my iPhone 3GS replaced (The screen was abnormally dark, wreaking havoc on the auto-bright setting) and about 100 metres away a store seemed very familiar…
Large light wood tables? Check.
Metal accents? Check.
Knowledgeable staff? Eh, not so much.
That last point was the clue that I wasn’t at another Apple store, but at a new Videotron store! Somebody has beaten Microsoft to the photocopier. More photos and full deets after the break.
Up until now, Videotron had been focusing on small, island-type kiosks. In fact, Videotron still operates its kiosk in the same mall, which was much busier than the barren store when I visited. As the company gears up to launch its own cell phone service in Quebec, (Videotron does currently offer cell phones, but it simply buys minutes wholesale from Rogers) retail space will become more and more important to the company. In the past year, we’ve seen Bell buy The Source stores and Telus buy Black’s Camera outlets as they jockey for more retail space to hawk their wares.
Now this is Videotron’s big retail push, so don’t expect the Apple copy to be perfect. The store is cluttered with flyers, pamphlets, and yellow cardboard boxes. The overall design aesthetic is most definitely Apple though, even the wall murals mimic Apple’s in-store iPhone murals.
Videotron, like Microsoft, is forgetting a couple of key elements that will keep their stores from being insanely profitable like Apple’s: Compelling products and brand loyalty. There’s simply no reason to walk into a Videotron store unless you specifically need a service from them. No one is enamoured by Videotron, they’re simply stuck with their products thanks to a lack of competition. People don’t love companies like Videotron or Microsoft they way they love Apple. It will be very interesting to see how well Microsoft does in the U.S. and Videotron in Quebec with their Apple retail knockoffs. While Videotron has a shot to do well in this market, there’s no doubt in my mind that Microsoft’s retail effort will be D.O.A.