Loblaws launched their PC Mobile brand back in 2005, offered a limited selection of entry level devices from Bell and Solo. They chugged along with no-contract terms and sub-par monthly rate plans until “The Mobile Shop” came onto the Canadian scene last year. At the time Loblaws said this was “part of its push to become one of Canada’s major retailers of mobile phones”. The simple kiosk was still present but the image was different, now giving potential customers the option to choose from 9 wireless carriers: Bell, Solo, Virgin, Fido, Virgin, Public Mobile, Wind Mobile and TELUS.
We could be way off base here and we’ve reached out to Loblaws for greater insight. Heavy duty poaching of new talent is happening, all taken from Best Buy Canada to spearhead the “store within a store” retail experience.
LinkedIn is a good resource and so far there are 3 new hires: Chris Webber was formerly the Director of Design at Best Buy and was the designer of record for the new “Cell Shop” concept that rolled into most of the Future Shop locations. Weber has now taken on the title of “Vice President Construction and Design at Loblaws Canada”. Next, Tony Gosse, who was a Senior Manager of “Store Design” and “In-store Experience” at Best Buy is now a “Senior Director at Loblaws”. Finally, Richard Gagnier, was responsible for opening Best Buy locations in Canada is now Construction Manager for Loblaws.
Loblaws grocery stores are clean, well organized and do not need a complete makeover, especially from 3 individuals who’ve been embedded in the tech space for years. So it seems we could see Loblaws create their full blown retail Mobile Shop experience soon. It would make complete sense for Loblaws to focus on “The Mobile Shop” brand, mainly because by 2014 it’s estimated there will be almost 30 million wireless subscribers in Canada. There would probably be nothing worse for them to invest millions into re-branding their mobile business, only to have it lost in the background next to the pepper, a waste of resources and time and certainly not on track to become one of “Canada’s major retailers of mobile phones”.
Loblaws certainly has, or will create, the space in their stores. Recently PC Mobile showed a bit more of their commitment to Canadian mobile users by releasing a data add-on and their first smartphone, the Android-powered Samsung Galaxy 550.
Update: Just heard back from Loblaws, they stated that “Regarding your question, I can tell you that we will have some very exciting news for you in the coming months but at this point in time, I’m unable to provide any specific details.”
We’ll have more info soon…