The New York Times
, Jennifer Lee said that Apple’s new foray into retail sales mimics what coffee empire Starbucks and retail bookseller Barnes & Noble have done — to downplay the products while emphasizing a way of life. Her comments come in a new column entitled To Cash In on a Lifestyle, Apple Hits the Mall.
Lee said that the stores complement the design aesthetic applied to Apple’s computers, and recounted a recent experience at the McLean, Va. Store. She talked with one potential Apple customer who compared the store to Bloomingdale’s, saying that he was frustrated with other computer store clerks’ inability to answer questions.
The ability to offer top notch customer service to Mac buyers, suggested Lee, may be the crux of why Apple is entering the retail market now — a particularly tough economic time for many computer companies. The company has long had a contentious relationship with the few retailers that have stocked its goods.
The effort is not without its pitfalls, of course. Lee noted that Apple runs the risk of alienating existing retailers who carry Macs, and quoted Channel Marketing Corp. president David Goldstein, who calls Apple’s retail strategy “completely flawed” and predicts that Apple will shut down the effort and write it off with huge losses in two years.
Apple’s presentation isn’t lost even on kids. One 11 year old interviewed for the article noted the difference between the Apple Store and Comp USA. “they want you to have an experience with the computer so you want to buy one,” he said.