The Vancouver Sun: Samsung launches first Canadian retail store in Metro Vancouver
Wednesday’s opening of a Samsung store in Burnaby’s Metropolis at Metrotown marks a North American first for the South Korean tech giant that is locked in a battle with Apple for supremacy in the growing mobile market.
The store launch comes as the company celebrates its latest patent victory over Apple’s attempt to block sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus smartphones; its phone sales have driven the company to a record $9.5 billion US quarterly profit and its newest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S III is flying off the shelves.
A showcase for all that is mobile in Samsung’s growing lineup of consumer products — from smartphones, to tablets, notebook computers and digital cameras — the Metro Vancouver store could be seen as a legacy of the 2010 Olympic Games.
It was the enthusiastic reaction to Samsung’s offical Olympic partner showcases here that put Vancouver on the agenda when Samsung started scouting possible locations for a Canadian store. When a prime spot in the Metrotown shopping centre came up, that sealed the deal.
“Back in the 2010 winter Olympics, since we’re a global partner, we had partnerships and pavilions set up in Vancouver and we interacted with tens of thousands of customers,” said James Politeski, who became the first non-Korean president of Samsung Canada when he was named to the post last December. “Their reaction was ‘wow, Samsung is amazing, these products are amazing, tell us more.’”
Samsung is doing just that with the roll out of it 140-square-metre store, a consumer tech playground that echoes the sleek functionality of the devices that are lined up in ‘experience’ displays as you walk in the door off the Metropolis atrium hub. The idea is to pick up each device, try it out and learn how it connects with other Samsung devices, including televisions, which while not for sale in the store, are there as part of the demo process.
Here’s a video preview of the new store with Samsung director of channel sales Nelson Lemos.
The phones are lined up; there’s a choice of tablets starting with the little Galaxy Note, the tablet with a 5.29-inch display that seems to have found a fit with a niche market, chalking up more than 5 million sales by the first quarter report. As you walk further into the store — the offerings get larger until you reach the notebook computers. Accessories line one wall and if you keep going right to the back, you’ll find Samsung’s version of the Apple Genius Bar, an area set aside for one-to-one or group demonstrations to help customers put the devices through their paces.
“This is a huge play for us,” said Politeski. “We’re super psyched; it’s a beautiful environment in which to experience a multitude of different Samsung products not only how they work themselves but also how they work together.”
While it might be regarded as Samsung taking a page from Apple’s book, with Apple stores already well established across Canada, Samsung would see it as writing its own new chapter.
“These stores are based purely on our own time and place and space,” said Politeski, adding that the store launch comes at a time when Samsung’s presence in Canada has grown from its start as a minor player some 25 years ago to a market leader today across a number of categories, including televisions, smartphones and others. “The opening of this store is perfect timing for where our momentum is in our business growth.”
Samsung and Apple are grappling for supremacy in the smartphone market, with Samsung overtaking the iPhone in the first quarter of this year, at a 29.1 per cent market share, or almost triple the same quarter last year, compared to Apple’s 24.2 per cent, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC). Samsung set a new market record for the number of smartphones shipped in a single quarter and while Politseki said he couldn’t give numbers for the first week of the Canadian release of the Galaxy SIII smartphone, he said it marked the company’s most successful smartphone launch ever, with sales outpacing the next closest by a factor of three.
Another difference in Samsung’s store opening is the presence of a silent (and secret) partner. While Politeski said while Samsung won’t identify the partner, when asked if it was one of Canada’s wireless companies, he agreed that it is.
“It’s not just a marketing initiative,” he said. “It’s a fully-fledged stand alone store that will make a profit and while making that profit it will help us drive a consumer experience that is state of the art and completely Samsung.”