Apple today unveiled
its fifth retail store
in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, IL. This is the first of two stores that will be opened in Chicago — the other will be in the downtown area. Apple has not announced an official launch date for that store.
Like a family reunion
Attending an Apple store opening is like going to a family reunion when one member of the family is a famous rock star or actor. Everyone is waiting for that person to arrive, to be able to say they were there. That’s the way the people acted today in Schaumburg — they didn’t necessarily know everyone, but they had a common bond with everyone there; the excitement is contagious.
It’s not often that hundreds of people line up hours before a retail store opening. It’s even less likely those people will immediately begin chatting about the store’s strategy, the company’s products, tech support questions, experiences with the products, sharing tips and tricks or how family, friends and co-workers have benefited from using the products; but when the company in question is named Apple, you get all this and more.
About 800 excited Apple fans and many curious onlookers lined the hallways of the Woodfield Shopping Center waiting with anticipation for the doors to open.
The first in line today was Mike Pickard, who arrived at 3:20 am, traveling an hour from Highland, IL. to attend the opening. Pickard is a science-fiction writer that has been using Macs for about 17 years — he completed his first novel, the Gerfmit Chronicles, using a combination of desktop Macs and his Newton.
“Apple opening stores is just what they need to do for their customers,” Pickard told MacCentral. “I can’t imagine having a store open this close to me and not being here — and not being first in line.”
Apple Stores respond to customer suggestions
Apple is also learning from the four previous store openings and making changes in the store as needed. These changes came from listening to customer’s suggestions on how the experience could be improved even more. The first of these changes is in the number of software titles the stores carry on the shelf.
“Due to the popularity of our software section, we have almost doubled the amount of titles we carry in the store,” Jerry MacDougal, Apple’s Senior Director of Merchandising told MacCentral. “We now carry 550 software titles.”
It wouldn’t be surprising to see a Mac OS X software section as one of the changes coming to a future Apple Store. With the release of OS X 10.1 slated for next month and more developers jumping onboard, it seems to make sense that Apple would highlight those titles in the store.
MacDougal also said that the Schaumburg store is equipped with a Sony TV and DVD player. This will give the customer a chance to walk into the store, burn a DVD and actually see it working on a TV like they have at home. With this method there is no wondering if the product will actually work the way it should when you get it home.
Apple is also bringing in new printer and scanner models, as well as other peripherals and software to make the buying experience a one-stop-shop. “We’ve done a lot of research to find out what products our customers want, and we try to bring those in the store,” said MacDougal.
If you’re around one of the first four stores to open, don’t worry; Apple will be implementing all of the changes in those stores too.
There are islands set up throughout the store with digital cameras, PDAs, and MP3 players — a consumer could walk out of the store with a complete digital hub.
“What we are trying to do here is create solution sets for our customers,” Allen Olivo, Senior Director Retail Marketing for Apple told MacCentral.
The Schaumburg store’s kid’s section has also changed a little bit compared to other locations. Because kids would often have to wait in line to use one of the computers, a fifth iMac was added, according to Olivo. Apple has also assigned a staff member to the kid’s section to answer any questions and make sure it’s a safe place to be.
There are approximately 30 computers on display in the store — all connected to the Internet through Apple’s AirPort technology.
Of course, the Genius Bar is at the back of the store, but it has also evolved since the first store openings in May. A spokesperson from Apple told MacCentral that the staff members at the Genius bar are fully equipped to do upgrades, as well as answer any questions you may have. The upgrades that can be done on site include memory upgrades, installing new drives, and more.
A few minutes after the opening customers were lining up at the counter to buy product and more people were walking around with arms full of software and hardware. So far, the biggest purchase of the day — and what’s probably one of the biggest single purchases at any Apple Store so far — was one sale of close to US$25,000, comprised of four dual-processor 800MHz Power Mac G4s, AirPort cards and AirPort Base Stations, and four 22 inch Apple Cinema Displays to match. Two Apple Store employees wheeled out all the equipment to the happy customer’s waiting van.
Before the doors opened Apple employees met at the back of the store for some final instructions. So, what does the manager of a major computer company tell the employees of a newly opening retail store?
“Enjoy the day, enjoy your job and have fun serving the customers.”