Apple opens Ginza store; Osaka store coming in 2004

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Apple Computer Inc. opened its first retail store in Japan, and the first outside the U.S., to journalists Thursday ahead of its official opening this Sunday.

The store, in the ritzy Ginza shopping district of Tokyo, covers five floors and includes a theater that can seat 84 people, a help desk and a classroom in addition to retail space. It will sell Apple's complete line of computers and peripherals, as well as a handful of products from other vendors, such as printers, scanners and digital cameras.

"This is the best shopping location in the world," said Ron Johnson, Apple senior vice president of retail operations, at a news conference at the store on Thursday. "New York's Fifth Avenue is great, the Champs Elysées in Paris and Regent Street in London are both great, but there is nothing like Ginza."

Situated in central Tokyo, the Ginza district is Japan's most pricey real estate and is home to many large department stores and brand name outlets such as Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Gucci.

The company's range of computers occupy the first floor of the store and are the first items people see when walking in off the street.

The second floor is home to three themed areas: music, movies and photos. This floor includes the company's iPod digital music player and digital still cameras, as well as digital video cameras from companies including Canon Inc., Konica Minolta Camera Inc., Nikon Corp., Sony Corp. and Victor Co. of Japan Ltd. (JVC).

On the building's third floor is the theater where Apple intends to hold events and user workshops. A full schedule of nine or ten events per day is planned for the theater and it will also host user-group meetings.

Software dominates around half of the fourth floor and there are also printers and scanners on display, including models from Canon, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Seiko Epson Corp. Visitors will also find an area where kids can play on computers and free Internet access is offered.

At the top of the building is a training center and reservations for paid courses are already being accepted online. Response to the courses has been good, said Johnson, with all sessions for December already full and some booked into the first two months of 2004.

One of the attributes of Apple Stores is great value, according to Johnson, and it's clear that Apple is emphasizing its customer service and the shopping experience over that of competing discount electrical retailers rather than price.

A check of prices for products on display at the store on Thursday with those found by local comparison shopping site finds that in many cases the customer who is solely concerned with price will find a better deal online or in electrical retailers.

The company employs a 140 people at the store and says between them 10 languages are spoken: Japanese, English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Thai, Italian, Spanish, French and Portuguese.

Apple also said Thursday that it plans to open a store in Osaka, Japan's second largest city, sometime in the second half of 2004. Johnson wouldn't comment on plans for other retail outlets in Asia.

This story, "Apple opens Ginza store; Osaka store coming in 2004" was originally published by PCWorld.

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