On the day of the 15th anniversary of the opening of the first Apple Store, the retail disrupter yesterday opened to the media the 42-by-40-foot sliding glass doors on San Francisco’s Union Square that will remain open in nice weather and are the face of its transactional and interactional future. The view from inside was apparently just as inviting, judging by most reporters’ reactions and #applestore Photos (presumably).
Among other features, there are ficus trees. Wide aisles. Leather benches. Bright colors. Wandering “Creative Pros” to help you figure out how to make the most out of what you buy. And a 35-foot video screen for presentations and music-videos.
“This is more than just a store,” Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s VP of retail, told reporters. “We want people to say, ‘Hey, meet me at Apple.’” Ahrendts, who departed the Burberry CEOship to sign on with Apple two years ago, oversaw the new look with design chief Jony Ive.
“The Genius Bar has been transformed into an environmental workspace under, as the Apple press release puts it, a ‘comfortable canopy of local trees,’” writes Harry McCracken for Fast Company “There’s a boardroom where a team of business geniuses will school local entrepreneurs and shop owners on the ways Apple products can improve efficiency. There’s an agora that will function as something of an education center and help Apple aficionados better exploit their creative passions. What Apple calls ‘The Plaza’ will serve as a 24-hour-a-day gathering place, home to a variety of events, including concerts and lectures.”
“The new stores are supposed to evoke a town square (which, of course, malls have been evoking for years). The idea is that you go to the store, geek out on the gear and learn how it all works together. If the concept works as designed, you'll buy into Apple's ecosystem of hardware, content and services — at least for another few years,” writes Bloomberg’s Alex Webb.
“A courtyard next to the store, which has a separate entrance and is open to the public 24 hours a day, has more trees, a fountain, free Wi-Fi and seating for about 200 people. Apple intends to hold acoustic music concerts there regularly,” writes Vindu Goel for the New York Times.
“I hope as you came in you saw the openness and the transparency,” Ahrendts said about the two-story location, which opens to the public tomorrow.
“It would be hard to miss her message or the double-entendre, given that those two buzzwords are king around Silicon Valley — and in broader American business and public life today,” writes Katy Steinmetz for Time.
“The bottom line is that they are approaching [the new store] as if it were a town center,” Tim Bajarin, an Apple analyst with Creative Strategies, tellsUSA Today’s Marco della Cava, Jessica Guynn and Elizabeth Weise. “The open doors, the wide open tables where you can come and touch and feel the products. While it is for retail, they are also letting people play with and touch the products and also creating a gathering place where people can come and learn and get help taking better pictures.”
Make no mistake, it does sell actual product of all kinds. Just differently, of course.
But not everyone buys into the vision. “Encouraging customers to hang out flies in the face of traditional retail thinking, since stores usually depend on high rates of foot traffic to succeed,” points outSF Gate’s Jessica Floum.
“They’re getting desperate, much like Apple did in the late ’90s, and when companies get desperate, they make a lot of mistakes,” technology analyst Rob Enderle tells her.
Mistake or not, Apple is apparently all-in.
The design “borrows features from Apple's hotly anticipated new headquarters in Silicon Valley, which is set to open early next year,” reports Reuters’ Julia Love. “Like the new campus, the San Francisco store features terrazzo floors, and the ceiling fixtures are also similar, B.J. Siegel, Apple's senior director of design for real estate and development, said in an interview.”
“We're trying to be one company and have one point of view,” he said.
“Apple stores may not generate anywhere near the revenue of the company's online counterpart. Yet for the last 15 years, they have acted as Apple's real-world footprint, a way to set apart how it communicates with customers and leaves its mark on cities around the world,” writes Nick Statt for The Verge.
“We think of this as our largest product,” Ahrendts said.