News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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April 26, 2014

Verizon changing stores to ‘exploration centers’

Terre Haute store second in Indiana to open with new concept

TERRE HAUTE — Verizon Wireless, looking to be known as a technology company instead of simply a phone company, has opened a new “Smart Store” design at its corporate-owned location at 3373 S. U.S. 41 in Terre Haute.

It’s Verizon’s second such store in Indiana to have the new redesign. The first was in Fort Wayne, and the company plans to convert all of its 1,700 company-owned retail locations into Smart Stores over the next few years.

“We are putting a big investment in our stores and making them bigger,” said Pat Lewis, sales director for Verizon Wireless in Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan.  “Verizon is offering a new customer experience geared to mobile lifestyle needs and wants,” he said.

The store is divided into mobile zones, such as music, health lifestyles, novel tech gadgets and home automation.

“The intent of the store is to be more customer centric and be more of a shopping and exploring experience. We built our original store model around more like a service center, rather than an exploration center, which we have today,” Lewis said.

“The technology is moving in such neat ways to make people think differently about how they use technology in their homes or on the go or for entertainment. These new stores give people the opportunity to learn how the technology has changed … and learn something that they didn’t know is possible,” Lewis said.

For example, a customer can control hue lighting in their home from a phone, tablet or computer. “You can change the color of how the light bulb is presenting itself. You can make light almost like a synthesizer, where it will change its color and brightness based on the music playing in the background,” Lewis said.

“Those types of things that revolve around the use of your wireless device are what we’re trying to showcase in these stores,” Lewis said.

In the new model, floor space will be 75 percent to 80 percent dedicated to the customer and shopping experience. The stores also include men and women’s restrooms, something not offered in previous store models.

“It makes the store a place you would want to look through and stay a while,” Lewis said.

In a look at the zones, such as its “Get Fit” zone for healthy lifestyles, Verizon offers a get fit health tracker to track calories burned and number of steps taken, including a cuff monitor that works with a downloadable phone software app (application) to monitor blood pressure.

“It is different than putting your thumb on the screen of a phone and getting a reading; this is a cuff that wirelessly transmits” to a phone, tablet or computer, Lewis said.

In music, several wireless speakers that work via Bluetooth are available, along with sound dynamics and comparisons of each speaker. In the gadget zone, an example is a garage door open detector, which also works with an app. It messages you to tell you that your garage door is open. Unfortunately, it does not close the garage door.

Another example is printed pictures, which via a scanner app, can be scanned and put onto a tablet, computer or phone. In the home automation, there is a smart thermostat, which pairs with WiFi to turn down the temperature of a home or increase the temperature. It also learns patterns, so it can train itself when to turn down or up temperatures.

The Terre Haute store employs 18 people, who have worked while construction of the store’s added space first began on Dec. 8. The new store, with 4,420 square-feet, opened Friday.

“There was challenges with space” during the construction, said David Scott, manager of the Terre Haute location. “Now, we have the open space and everything available to the customers to be able to demonstrate products, versus just talking about them and not seeing what they actually do,” Scott said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard. greninger@tribstar.com.

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