The Brick unveils new technology driven WEM flagship store
EDMONTON – The Brick has unveiled its new flagship, a relocated and renovated 55,000 square foot space here in the West Edmonton Mall (WEM), one of this country’s largest and most heavily visited shopping centres.
“Our customers want the best of both worlds – an exceptional and innovative in-store experience, as well as a convenient and always-open online experience,” Dave Freeman, president of The Brick said at the store’s recent grand opening event. “Our new, bigger store in WEM uses technology to bridge the gap between digital and in-person shopping, giving customers everything they expect from one of Canada’s leading retailers.”
The retailer – the largest banner operated by the publicly held Leon’s Furniture Limited (LFL) – noted the new store carries approximately 8,600 individual pieces displayed in inspirational room settings that focus on modern urban living. It also features large screen digital displays where customers can browse its entire catalogue as well as visualize their own Designed2B custom furniture configurations in augmented reality.
Ken Thrasher, senior director of marketing and e-commerce, told Home Goods Online the retailer worked hard to integrate technology into the store’s design while ensuring it was practical – that is, easy to use with immediate result. It wasn’t a case of “how do we get technology into this store” but rather one of how the tech could be used to solve the customer’s problem while making the shopping experience that much better.
He admitted much of what was implemented wouldn’t be considered cutting edge, but it is practical and helpful to the customer. It starts with provided every sales associate with a tablet. For now, much of this technology is only being used at The Brick WEM.
“The tablets allow sales associates to check inventory, other available colours and configurations, delivery dates and warranty information quickly and without ever leaving the customer,” Thrasher said. “We have also built an app for our in-house custom upholstery program – Designed 2B – that allows the sales associate to design a custom sofa in real time with a customer. They can choose their configuration, fabric material and colour. As they complete the steps, the app renders the sofa or sectional so they can see how it looks in 360 degrees in real time.”
They also introduced integrated digital price tags in the appliance department. “These devices update pricing across the entire department with the push of a button so we can ensure prices are up-to-date and accurate,” he said, adding, “We can react to any competitor price changes right away as well.”
There are also interactive 50-inch touch displays throughout the store where customers can browse The Brick’s expanded product catalogue. There is also an abundance of digital signage throughout the store that displays important promotional and policy information.
“We are really trying to help make shopping for furniture easier and more interactive for our customers,” Thrasher said. “The technology we have integrated helps us do that, rather then just integrating technology for the sake of being ‘modern’.”
At 55,000 square feet, The Brick WEM is larger than the banner’s average, which is about 35,000 square feet, although it’s by ne means its larger. “This store is less than 5,000 square feet larger (than the old WEM store) but it feels much larger,” Thrasher said, who noted the old location was spread out over two floors, had far less open space and didn’t have exterior access. The new space was once the top floor of the mall’s Sears Canada department store.
“The new location is all one level, bright and spacious and just provides a much more welcoming feel when you want into it,” Thrasher said, adding it “also now gives us an exterior entrance to the mall which should provide a big increase in foot traffic.”
Historically, furniture stores in this country have avoided shopping centres, mainly because of their high cost of occupancy. But The Brick as has a presence in WEM for the past 35 years and even has stores in other shopping centres across the country.
“West Edmonton Mall is a huge draw with over 34 million visitors a year, so there is no shortage of potential customers,” Thrasher said. “If your store has great curb appeal in the mall the better chance you have of attracting new customers to check it out and we’ve achieved that with this store. Once they are in and taking a look, its all about the experience.”
The Brick WEM also a slightly different product profile than other stores in the chain. For example, it features a much larger assortment of home accents and other items the customer can purchase at ‘the spur of the moment.’ These items are spread throughout the store within existing furniture groups as well as on dedicated feature walls designed to help inspire customers with curated looks.
“The store also has our largest mattress gallery in the country and features much more space to other items that help the customer get a better sleep (pillows, mattress covers, linens etc.),” Thrasher said.
As well, there is the Charity Corner, a section of the store dedicated to supporting the Edmonton-based Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation, which the company has supported to some years. The Brick also donated $1.5 million to the Children’s Miracle Network – which supports children’s hospitals across the country – in 2018.