With 21 stores throughout Canada and the United States and more expected, iStore sells Apple products such as iPad and MacBook, as well as accessories for today’s modern mobile devices ranging from smartphone cases to electronic toys and from earphones to speakers. The company has made a name for itself since its inception in 2009 by offering the latest in high-tech mobile accessories with a focus on providing the best customer experience in the industry and a fashion-forward, design-based approach to selling merchandise.
President Mike Battat has been involved in the technology sector since the early 1990s, when he started working with Apple in business-to-business sales. Teitelbaum’s background was in retail, and he spent more than 25 years in the world of fashion retail before joining up with Battat to establish the first iStore location inside Montreal’s Montreal-Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport.
iStore was the first retailer in North America officially authorized by Apple to sell its extremely popular iPod, iPad and MacBook products at airports, and soon the ball was rolling. “We realized we had the tiger by the tail and we had an opportunity to expand in airports,” Teitelbaum says.
Today, iStore continues to gain marketshare not only among airport retailers, but also in traditional retail channels and ecommerce. Thanks in part to the strong partnership it has created with French airport retail giant Lagardere as well as Apple, and the creation of its own brand of high quality accessories, iStore is positioned to become one of North America’s leading digital lifestyle brands.
iStore occupies a unique niche within the technology retail world, according to Teitelbaum. As a premier retailer of Apple products, the company understands the importance of the overall experience of a product as well as its utility. Apple is the leading provider of mobile devices, but its customer base tends to be higher up on the socioeconomic scale and spends more than the average mobile technology customer, so iStore concentrates on offering a retail experience that straddles the line between the mass market and prestige retailers. “The way we like to describe our appeal is that we occupy a ‘masstige’ space in the market,” Teitelbaum says.
Rhyming with prestige, “masstige” means the company concentrates on a design-driven and fashion-forward approach to selecting the merchandise for its stores, while at the same time offering a shopping experience that is accessible to a wide range of customers. Inspired by the world of fashion, Teitelbaum says the company allows customers to test cases on their phones before they buy, and many locations feature private sound booths for testing speakers or ear buds. “What iStore is really about is selling customers a complete experience,” Teitelbaum says.
One of the most significant milestones for iStore came when it partnered with Lagardere. Teitelbaum says the company entered a licensing agreement with Lagardere over fouryears ago and since then has opened more than 15 new iStore locations in North American airports. This partnership helps offset some of the challenges presented by airport retail. Teitelbaum says airport retail stores typically operate with much longer hours than traditional stores, and their locations away from residential areas makes staffing extra-difficult. There are also numerous logistics and security elements of airport retailing which makes the channel fairly unique.
Beyond airports, Teitelbaum says the company’s experience in the mobile accessories sector has made it an attractive partner for retailers looking to bolster their presence in the e-accessories niche. For example, two years ago iStore entered into a partnership with Indigo, the largest bookstore chain in Canada. Teitelbaum says iStore helped Indigo develop a store-within-a-store concept called Indigotech. The concept has been introduced into 40 Indigo stores across Canada so far.
Recently, the company also opened its first prototype flagship stores in traditional shopping center in Canada, signaling the start of iStore branching out from being solely an airport retailer. Teitelbaum says the company will continue to experiment with different sizes and types of locations outside of airports over the next few years, including smaller footprint shop-in-shops where viable. The company expects traditional retail and ecommerce to continue to become larger segments of its business.
In the Future
The partnerships iStore has with blue-chip partners such as Apple, Lagardere and Telus will continue to be one of the company’s greatest strengths moving forward, but Teitelbaum says the development of products under its own iStore brand as well as its own Thump Audio brand will also play a significant role in iStore’s continued success. By becoming a true multichannel presence in the mobile accessories sector, iStore has positioned itself very well for the future.
Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices have become vitally important parts of their owners’ lives, and accessories for them have become a new category of fashion that never existed before, Teitelbaum says. With its partnerships and plans for growth in place, iStore is ready to help define that category for years to come.