By Mario Toneguzzi
The explosion in the use of smartphones and tablets has led to a proliferation of repair stores for the electronic devices.
And Toronto-based Mobile Klinik has been in the forefront of keeping Canadians using their devices as the company has aggressively expanded across the country with ambitious plans for future growth - which will include moving into Walmart locations.
“Our plan is to have 80 stores by the end of the year so that will be 40 net openings in 2019 and an additional 40 stores per year for the next three years to get us to our target of about 200 stores across Canada,” said Tim McGuire, the company’s CEO.
“Starting in mid-May with what will be our number 50 store, we will start opening within Walmart Supercentres across Canada. We’re really excited about this. It’s a great opportunity for us. We’re starting with a group of five stores spread across the country. The first one will be in Scarborough West in Toronto but then we’ve got four more planned. One in Airdrie, Alberta. One in Fredericton, New Brunswick. One in Oshawa, Ontario and one in London. That’s the first wave and more will follow. We’re really excited about this opportunity. No one else in Canada will be doing this and it’s a great opportunity for us to not only leverage the traffic and customers that Walmart already has but frankly to draw customers into their store which I know they’re excited about because our store’s a destination.”
The company’s first store opened September 2015 in the St. Laurent Shopping Centre in Ottawa.
“It’s a great store for us. It’s still one of our highest performers almost four years later,” said McGuire.
“We are the leading provider of trusted, professional repair services for smartphones and tablets. That means we do a lot of repairs of broken screens, of dead batteries, of charging ports that don’t work any longer, of home buttons that aren’t working, of camera lenses that get cracked, speakers that don’t work, or headphone jacks that don’t work. Anything that prevents you from having the full experience of a 100 per cent performing smartphone. We can repair any phone, any brand, any time.”
All repairs are done in-store, in front of the customer by trained, bonded, customer-service oriented technicians. It repairs all major brands of smartphones and tablets. The company says repairs are usually completed in less than 60 minutes (some repairs, for example, water damage, may take longer).
“We’re moving fast. We’re opening four stores a month on average. We’re just continuing to make sure we get to everywhere in Canada. We’re in eight provinces today and we have plans for Nova Scotia and PEI so we’ll be at 10 shortly . . . We’re going to take the country by storm,” he said.
Mobile Klinik works with Oberfeld Snowcap for its real estate needs.
McGuire said the vast majority of stores are in the major malls.
“And our intention is to have a store in every major mall in Canada. We’re working our way through that. Of the 46 stores today, about 38 or 39 are in the major malls. We have a number of stores that are in what we would call outdoor stores or power centres, strip centres, etc. Usually that’s in markets that are too small to have an enclosed mall and we still want to serve those customers,” he said.
“But our primary goal is to open our stores in the major enclosed malls. We will then use our outdoor stores to fill in around those where we need them to reach all of the customers.”
While the company is currently only in Canada, McGuire said it is developing plans for international expansion once Canada is complete.
A mall-based store is usually in the range of about 300 to 450 square feet. Stores are as small as 126 square feet and as large as 1,100 square feet.
“There are three major elements of the business. The first and most important one clearly is repair services but we are also Canada’s largest seller of certified, pre-owned used phones. Phones that we refurbish and resell to customers,” said McGuire.
“The third piece of the business is a range of accessories so that’s protective cases, screen protectors, power cables, headphones, speakers. All those types of things.”
The company has about 200 employees across Canada with a typical store having between three and five full-time employees.
“We believe that a critical element of our ability to provide the most trusted and professional repairs is to have the absolute best technicians available in the industry. So we pay well above the industry average and we hire the best people all of whom have diplomas in electronic technician, computer technician and then we provide them with an intensive program before we even let them into a store so they know how to repair every phone and every tablet that’s out there and to do so in the most effective way.”
McGuire said one of the keys to the business is the company’s network of partnerships. About half the business the company does is directed to its stores by its partners - the device manufacturers like Samsung and LG that have certified Mobile Klinik as their in warranty and out of warranty approved provider; insurance companies; and the carriers themselves.
“The importance of the smartphones just has grown in our lives. We refer to the smartphone as the remote control of the rest of your life. People rely on it heavily. It’s got lots of important data in there. It’s got links to your bank accounts and your payroll and all sorts of things like that. You’ve got photos of your family. You don’t really want to hand that over to someone who you don’t trust. So we saw a real opportunity to build a trusted professional approach to the business much like many other retail sectors have done over time where the mom and pops have gradually been supplanted by a growing professional chain-based retail approach that gives consistent quality service everywhere you go and is big enough and well-supported enough to be able to back that up,” said McGuire.
“From a consumer standpoint that’s a key part of our proposition. And in fact, if you go into one of our stores one of the things you’ll notice is we don’t have a back room in any of our stores. If we do, it’s merely a storage closet. We will never take your phone and go behind the door to repair it.”
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: email@example.com.