It took flying nearly half way across the globe, but I was finally on hand for my first Apple Store opening — Apple’s first European outlet, the Regent Street Store in London. Here are the details:
When I arrived just prior to The Store opening at 10 AM, the line to get in went around a very large block (I haven’t heard a crowd estimate but it was easily over 500 people [Update: I've since heard that there were in excess of 3,000 people in line). It was a typically gray London day, but one that was both a little drippy and quite cold — certainly less than 40 degrees.
Just prior to the opening The Store staff jogged around the block to the cheers of the crowd.
The first person in line was a Texan who had been in line since Thursday night — through two very cold nights. According to a couple of Apple employees I spoke with this gentleman had little to no sleep during these couple of days. Several also spent a very cold night in line.
Much like with the San Francisco Store opening, Apple offered 300 black “lucky bags” that could be purchased for 250 pounds (which, at the current exchange rate, is about $500). These medium-sized duffle bags were supposed to contain items valued at at least 700 pounds. Among the items in a couple of bags I peered into were an AirPort Express, iSight, JBP speakers, and Apple software such as Keynote. A few of the bags contained certificates for big ticket items. Everyone who entered The Store while I was there received a free black T-shirt that carried the Apple logo and the single word “London.”
Rumors swirled about that Steve Jobs would appear for the opening but was laid low with a cold. The people operating security at the back door said the Lord Mayor of London had popped in for the occasion, however.
This is among the first Apple Stores to feature The Studio, a special area set aside to advise creative types. The Regent Street Store may also have the longest Genius Bar of any Apple Store.
The Store was well stocked — complete with walls of iPod photos and the iPod Special Edition: U2 — and is laid out similarly to Apple’s other big stores, such as the San Francisco, Chicago, and New York SOHO outlets, though the London Store is even more expansive. Like these Stores the Regent Street Store has a large theater with plush seats. Mac celebs such as Andy Ihnatko — who will be promoting his latest book from Wiley Publications, The iLife ‘04 Book — are slated to appear in the next couple of days.
If today’s reception is any hint at how The Apple Store will be greeted in other European capitals, The Store has a very bright future abroad.