Apple kicks off holidays with store openings

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The Valley Fair Apple Store in the Valley Fair Shopping Center in Santa Clara had its grand opening today to help customers get a jump on their holiday shopping. Ron Johnson, Apple's senior vice president for retail, said that the Store opened when the mall opened. "Parking is difficult enough the day after Thanksgiving," said Johnson, "we wanted those visiting the Apple Store opening to get a spot easily."

There were about two hundred people in line before the opening. The first in line was Randeep Singh Nanak, a technical Writer from Fremont -- a bay area suburb about thirty miles north of the store. Nanak arrived at 5:30 this morning, with the next folks arriving at shortly after six. The first visitors to the grand opening get a Valley Fair Apple Store t-shirt.

Johnson said that there are four Apple Stores opening today, a new record for Apple. "We open our stores when they are ready, but we also wanted to open our stores to give people as much holiday shopping time as possible," said Johnson. According to Johnson, many Apple enthusiasts collect Apple Store opening T-shirts.

Those in line this morning were coming out to get T-shirts, take a look at the iPod -- and to buy one in many cases -- and to enjoy an Apple Store opening. Other items that folks were looking into at the Store were iBooks, G4 PowerBooks, recordable DVDs and software.

This morning's news featured pundits predicting poor retail performance this holiday season. Today is considered the first rush of the Christmas shopping season and is often used as an indicator. Johnson is confident that the Apple Store's service, products and style will allow Apple to prosper during this predicted dour retail season.

"While we never know how the season is until it's over, we are very hopeful for this holiday season," said Johnson, who has over eighteen years experience in retail. "In a tough economy, buyers become more selective. Stores that have great merchandise, the right concept and great service will perform very well. We will be one of those," said Johnson. As an example, Johnson pointed out that the iPod is a unique and revolutionary product. Johnson said that people would spend much less frivolously, carefully selecting quality products like the iPod over other products that offer less value.

The Fair Valley Apple Store is having holiday hours that are the same as those of the Mall -- typically 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM, but these hours do change depending on the proximity to Christmas.

Miami

The store opening this morning in Miami enjoyed similar success -- about one hundred people greeted Apple Store staff members when the doors opened.

Arriving at 5:45 am from Cooper City, FL., were Tom Tomlinson and Carmen Annillo -- the pair drove 45 miles to be first in line. They said they have been Mac Users since the beginning and have been waiting for an Apple Store.

No Apple Store opening would be complete without the support of the local User Groups. The Gold Coast Mac User Group was out in force in Miami. They setup a bus with banners as a landmark in the parking lot for users looking for the Apple Store.

"Software sales were brisk with customers often picking up 7-8 titles at a time," Orlando Luna, an Apple Solutions Expert and owner of Luna Studio, told MacCentral.

iPods were going out the door quickly in Miami -- the iPod has been a big draw at each store opening since its introduction. Of course, customers enjoyed their time talking to Apple Store employees, getting information on products while testing them out -- many made a beeline for the Mac Genius bar to test out the skills of the local talent.

San Diego

The Fashion Valley Apple Store opened this morning at 9am to a very enthusiastic crowd. People started to arrive for the opening at 5:15 am, with the first spot taken by a substitute teacher/Mac fanatic Christopher Brown. Joining him at the front were his parents, who are also Apple fans.

"Even close to an hour after the doors opened, the line extended out to the main sidewalk (nearest the parking structure) and started back toward the store, probably an honest 100 yards," Rory Ivers, owner of Ivers Photo & Imaging, told MacCentral. "Fortunately the anticipated Thanksgiving weekend rain held off and even let the sun shine on the waiting throng."

As might be expected, Apple employees said they were "thrilled to be in San Diego" and praising the store's great location and San Diego's solid Mac user base. The store quickly filled to capacity as Apple personnel greeted the crowd, with the B-52's "Love Shack" blaring over the store's sound system.

As with the Miami store, the most popular items were the iPod and the selection of software, with multiple purchases being common.

In addition to these stores, Apple also opened a store in Buffalo today.

This story, "Apple kicks off holidays with store openings" was originally published by PCWorld.

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