Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be at an historic event: a sneak peek at one of the first two Apple retail stores. While I have some questions and concerns about Apple’s retail strategy, I have to admit that the new store at Tysons Corner in McLean, VA, was very, very impressive.
Like the best of Apple’s hardware and software, the store was extremely well designed. It was light, airy, and inviting. The employees were very friendly and all the little touches were in place. Heck, Apple even “imported” real kids for the kids section.
Check out our photo section for lots of pictures. But to put things in perspective, here’s a description of the layout and design of the store, which will be pretty typical of all upcoming Apple retail facilities.
All will carry inventory — about 500 products, including all Apple’s products, of course, and over 300 third-party software titles for professionals and consumers, including some of the best educational titles for kids — because, as Apple CEO Steve Jobs said, people like to go into a store and walk home with a product.
The Apple store is organized into sections that make it easy for both first time and experienced Mac users. These sections are: Products, Solutions, Genius Bar, Theater, Software, and Etc.
The first 25 percent of the store is dedicated to Apple’s product lines (the Pro and Home sections). The middle half of the store is dedicated to, thankfully, solutions in such areas as movie, music, kids, and photos. The back 25 percent of the store is home to the Genius Bar and the theater.
Each Apple store will have a minimum of six staffers on hand. Up to 13 may be around during the busiest hours (probably weekends).
When it comes to solutions, Apple will showcase what it determines are the best six products in the digital camera, digital camcorder, PDA, and MP3 player category.
As I’ve mentioned the stores are gorgeous and well designed. The idea of a range of solutions for customers on the consumer and pro levels is solid and well implemented. And the Mac genius with whom I spoke was very knowledgeable when I quizzed him. Overall, the idea behind the retail stores seems very good.
I do hope that Apple does indeed use the stores to complement existing resellers and not put the squeeze on them. The stores do need to be in well-trafficked areas, but not ones in which current Apple resellers are doing a good job. And there are plenty of places in the US where there are no Apple resellers.
Apple will also need to consider innovative ways to lure people into the new stores. For example, Colin Crawford, president and CEO of Mac Publishing, recommended having a contest with kids of a certain age group compete to make the best iMovie. The winners could be showcased in an in-store, mini-film festival to which the children, friends, parents, and grandparents would be invited to attend.
Whatever the outcome, you’ve got to hand it to Jobs and Company. They’re not resting on their laurels, and they’re not averse to risk taking.
That’s what I love about the Mac platform and my job. As Jobs said, here we go …