Is The Hub The Future Of Shop?

The big box store is about as fulfilling an experience as, well, shopping in a big box store. When you've become your own frame of reference your time is really up.

Futureshop in West Vancouver’s Park Royal has introduced a pilot project - with Edmonton's 55,000 square feet wheelhouse to open next – they call the Hub. The Hub is about connecting—connecting you to your devices and your devices to your devices.

West Vancouver's Future Shop at Park Royal next to where the Capilano River "connects" to the Pacific Ocean.

This concept, which borrows heavily from Apple's Genius Bar, invites a customer to ask questions before venturing into the wilderness of heavily stocked shelves and commissioned sales people. In some instances Futureshop Connectivity Experts will accompany the buyer through the product selection. Other times they will be handed off to an associate.

The “Connected Home” Hub is, as is geometrically accurate, in the centre of the wheel with it's four spokes; Living(refrigerators, washer/dryers), Playing(video gaming, DVDs, music), Working(laptops, printers) and On The Go(cell phones, PDAs).

This appears to be a genuine change of the culture of Future Shop and a marked transformation. Stores will be laid out according to the regional preferences as determined by extensive market research and focus group testing. Customer-centric?

Susan Kirk shared with me that in Calgary the number of Moms who came in and purchased used video games(ala Electronic Boutique, Rogers and Blockbuster) soared beyond expectations. Are these Women buying the games for themselves or their children? I suggested that the home appliance section might enjoy a 'halo' effect should West Van Mom's populate the video game aisles. But unless EA releases a shrubbery pruning RPG I don't see my West Van mom making a bee-line to the new shrine-like video game tower.

For commodities like socks and pickles the big boxes suffice but for high-priced non-perishable technology the customer experience had to change. We form relationships with and through our new technology. The introduction and integration of new digital components into our lives has ramifications that Monster cables and monster retail outlets cannot prepare us for.

The concept is already being employed in other sectors. When I left that Hub and entered another one - the West End of Vancouver - I was promptly pulled over by a motorcycle cop and given a ticket for driving without wearing a seat belt. Enforcement Officer #1935 verbosely explained why I was pulled over, why the fine has been increased in the past year and how important it is to wear the seat belt. He was so cordial I even thanked him for the privilege of paying the $167 fine. That's customer service from someone wearing a uniform.