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To help summer shoppers, store goes wireless

Grocer finds that tourists appreciate being able to go online in his store

Starbucks and a vast array of trendy restaurants are arming themselves with wireless networks in order to get their customers to linger longer.

Grocery stores are starting to do it as well.

In the affluent Hamilton suburb of Burlington, the Fortinos chain installed Wi-Fi into one of its newer stores, where food stations and comfy restaurant-style seats beckon customers to sit down, relax and check their e-mails or Twitter.

But it may be rural grocery stores that have the best shot at differentiating themselves by installing Wi-Fi. After all, there aren’t too many Starbucks in cottage country…yet.

One such grocer who added Wi-Fi is Matthew Barnabe (pictured), the owner of Barnabe’s Your Independent Grocer.

His store is situated in Perth, Ont., about an hour’s drive east of Ottawa.

Perth is the centre of a popular summer tourist area and Barnabe says that he experiences a 50 per cent spike in sales each summer.

“After a couple of days of being without phone service a lot of people want to be able to connect,” he says. “So I really thought this would be a good service for our customers.”

Barnabe had Wi-Fi installed into his 35,000-square-foot store this past February through an Ottawa-based provider Storm Internet Services.

The Wi-Fi is free to for customers in the store and so far response has been positive, Barnabe says.

“It’s one more thing that differentiate our store from others,” he adds.

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