Telus Opens New Flagship Store in Vancouver

by Jordan Richardson on October 26, 2010

Telus has introduced Caya to the world, opening the new flagship store in Vancouver last Friday.

Caya is an acronym for “Come As You Are” and is Telus’ attempt to capture the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community. The store features, according to the Vancouver Sun, “20-foot ceilings, designer lighting, exclusive designer accessories for phones, MP3 players, e-books and laptops, photo processing, cameras and other services.”

Telus is planning on opening a series of Caya stores across Canada and has dedicated a significant part of its retail space to LGBTQ community events. Kenn Hamlin, Telus’ director of special projects, envisions Caya as a hub for events with its partner groups.

“A lot of them are very grassroots and need a space that they can call home to do fundraisers — and we’ve been approached by a couple already to book a gay wedding in the summer,” Hamlin said Monday. “We kicked off Friday night with a grand opening celebration. The store was actually packed and the traffic (since then) has been very, very steady – and that’s prior to doing any major promotions, which we are about to embark on.”

Caya also has a number of fundraising opportunities within the retail outlet, including a feature called the Giving Wall that lets customers donate money to a great cause called Out in Schools.

This entire project sounds very interesting to me for a number of reasons, but I can’t quite help but shake my natural corporate cynicism. Caya is primarily an attempt to zero in on another market and Telus is using the opportunity to promote its own laudable internal policies with respect to the LGBTQ community while distancing its mainline stores from the ugly business of supporting the issues out in the open.

Case in point: “If you look at that internally at Telus, we’ve had same-sex partnership benefits since 1994. If you look at how we have engaged in the LGBTQ community, from a community affairs and investment perspective, we’ve given over $1 million nationally to a number of LGBTQ organizations,” says Hamlin.

Make no mistake about it, Caya is primarily a retail outlet. It is not a community centre.

It is a store designed exclusively for a certain segment of the population that Telus is hoping to serve better. Is there something to the notion that the company feels the LGBTQ community requires their own outlet stores? Does Telus have stores for other groups in the works, too, and is there something to the notion that Telus feels the need to prop up an entirely different and separate retail entity to support LGBTQ issues?

A sensible person could find a lot to sneer at with the marketing campaign. A simple glance at the Caya website produces many a groan, including the “Proudly expressive” slide of a person holding a particular product or the “Satisfy your curiosity” header that precedes the site’s information section. And Caya’s apparent mission statement is interesting: “to give people a store that offers them the products and services that help show the world who they are.”

Does the LGBTQ community really need Telus products and services to help “show the world who they are?” And if Telus really wants to stand up for LGBTQ issues proudly, can’t their “mainstream” retail outlets feature fundraising opportunities like the Giving Wall? You tell me.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt Tumminello October 26, 2010 at 2:57 pm

I run a gay marketing agency based in NYC and this is one of the coolest things we’ve seen in a while. Wondering if this was done internally or with an agency. Regardless, kudos to them. Great job. Lots of inspiration here.

Jordan Richardson October 26, 2010 at 3:12 pm

According to the Vancouver Sun, this was done through Telus’ internal marketing team and with the assistance of “community advisers.”

I do find it interesting that companies are targeting consumers based on sexual orientation, but I guess I shouldn’t be overly surprised that companies would participate in a marketing scheme that allows them to “support” the LGBT community without risking the sanctity of their mainline brand.

Matt October 26, 2010 at 4:54 pm

I hope I can be forgiven for my ignorance, but I was unaware that the lesbian, gay bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population weren’t having their telecommunications needs met effectively.

I have to question the point behind this. It doesn’t seem to create any additional revenue streams for TELUS, unless of course those in the LGBT community were unwilling or unable to walk into a regular TELUS store before. Call me jaded, ignorant, or what have you, but I just don’t get it.

Jill Tracy October 26, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Matt–thanks for asking about the team behind Caya. A Vancouver-based agency, Creative B’stro, was hired by TELUS to take care of the branding and visual design. B’stro had a great time working on such an exciting new brand – creating the identity and website, conceptualizing the Giving Wall, and turning Caya into a truly community space were extremely rewarding projects to bring to completion. As a Lesbian-owned agency, we have a large personal stake in what Caya stands for, and we are incredibly proud of what the entire team has accomplished for this launch.

Jordan Richardson October 26, 2010 at 10:31 pm

It still smacks of a form of very specific corporate segregation to me, no matter how the various marketing agencies spin their involvement. Imagine if there was a Telus-owned store and “community space” for Indo-Canadians operating under a different name. And one for Chinese Canadians. And so on.

Part of the problem here is that it doesn’t take that much of a leap to suggest that Telus is uncomfortable directly marketing to gay and lesbian consumers. That they had to set up a separate brand to directly “target” the market group is telling of their overall relationship with the community in terms of public relations.

genevieve grenier October 27, 2010 at 10:39 am

I didn’t know that LGBTQ people were using cell phones in a different way…

Ms A Cooper October 27, 2010 at 11:12 am

Sorry, cannot support this as being necessary. Just like the Gay Pride Parade. Why do people that are Gay, Lesbian, etc. feel they have to display their being different – and Telus supporting this – has lost a lot of my respect for this company. I wish I hadn’t gone “back” to Telus after reading this! Sincerely, A Cooper

Jordan Richardson October 27, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Ms. Cooper, we all have a right to display and celebrate our differences. Telus should support gay initiatives, without question, and they should be applauded by any member of a tolerant, compassionate society for supporting gay causes.

You are right about this store being unnecessary, but I’m not sure there’s a fair comparison here with something like the Gay Pride Parade. Apples and oranges.

April November 9, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Wouldn’t all customers of Telus or any carrier for that matter like to buy their phone(s) in a relaxing lounge atmosphere? I know I would. This seems a bit unnecessary.

Ivan March 14, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Why do es the gay society need a special rate from the general public ?

Jordan Richardson March 14, 2011 at 7:21 pm

I’m not overly sure what you mean. What kind of “special rate” is the “gay society” getting? Is it like a senior’s discount?

joe vandenakerboom October 26, 2011 at 9:38 pm

i don’t care what a persons sexual orientation is ,and how telus treats them.all i am asking is why can telus not come out with a simple to use cellphone like rodgers has cater to a small segment of the population,but you seem to forget that the aging population is likely larger than the gay and lesb.’ are forcing people to go to rodgers.lets hear your side .

joe vandenakerboom November 6, 2011 at 6:01 pm

who provides answers on this site? any one knows?

Jeff Wiener November 7, 2011 at 7:57 am

This site is run by Digitcom, and I can help. What’s your question?


joe vandenakerboom November 11, 2011 at 11:21 am

my question is posted above ,dated oct.26/11. joe.

joe vandenakerboom November 17, 2011 at 3:35 pm

this is a useles site ,no one comes back with a answer

Jordan Richardson November 17, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Joe, I don’t really know what kind of answer you’re expecting to get. This site is a blog, one with opinions and articles on a number of subjects related to the telecommunications world.

From what I can tell you’re asking why Telus “can’t come out with a phone” that is easy to use. I don’t know why Telus hasn’t met your needs as a consumer (or even if they have or haven’t) because I don’t know what your specific needs are. Telus does have a wide variety of phones, but I’m not a shill for Telus nor do I care to be.

The place to direct your question/concern would be at Telus itself.

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