My two cents. There’s a persistent rumor that Apple plans on opening its own line of retail stores — whether it will happen or not is sheer speculation. But if it does happen, it could be a good thing if Apple does it right. But there are a few things I hope my favorite computer company keeps in mind if and when it undertakes such a step.
Number 1: Don’t compete with current resellers. There are a lot of Apple stores out there filled with folks who are knowledgeable about the Mac and who love the platform. I’d hate to see Apple put the kibosh on these stories by competing with them. On the other hand, any store that does a half-hearted job needs to go.
Apple should work with the dedicated, efficient Apple vendors on advertising and promotions instead of working against them. Treat ’em like the partners they are, rather than an unwanted necessity. My local dealer, Mac Authority, does a fine job. In their end of town (Nashville, TN) we don’t need an Apple retail store. Speaking of which …
Number 2: Don’t open stores only in the biggest cities. Let’s be real. San Francisco isn’t hurting for Mac dealers. There may be room for an Apple retail store in the city, but there’s no burning need for one. However, the last time I looked, one was needed in Jackson, TN.; Athens, GA.; Cincinnati, OH.; Austin, TX (which is, heh heh, Dell country).
Open stores not just in the metropolises, but in the midsize cities where folks have no opportunity to get up close and personal with Mac products. There are a lot of folks out there who don’t buy Macs because they can’t experience the beauty of the platform. And most of them don’t live in San Francisco. Of course, moving into midsize cities will take time so we’re talking about a long-term plan.
Number 3: Don’t skimp on physical facilities. Make the stores lavish and attractive. By “lavish,” I don’t mean 300,000 square feet with crystal chandeliers on the ceiling. But the stores should be eye-catching and appealing, just as Apple hardware and software is. The stores don’t even have to be huge. They can even serve as “front ends” for the Apple Online Store, much as the Gateway Country shops do for Gateway.
But the stores have to provide places where folks can come in and get their hands on iMacs, iBooks, G4 towers, and PowerBooks. If anything Apple stores should be as much about educating people about the Mac platform as selling boxes. They should, of course, sell Apple software, as well as offering information (including ordering info) for the many Mac software titles. (One caveat: stock games. Lots of games. When gamers want a product, they want it RIGHT NOW. I know. My son is one.)
Number 4: Don’t skimp on salaries. I’d much rather see a small to medium size store staffed with folks who actually know the Mac rather than a big store with employees who don’t. There are lots of folks reading this column who have, like me, had to help people in CompUSA, Sears, and Circuit City because the people working the Mac section didn’t know diddly about it.
Heck, I’ve even had to jump in and stop an employee at one of these chains from discouraging two customers from buying a Mac. And this genius was working in the Apple department. It would be better to pay more to qualified folks than hire knuckleheads on the cheap. Heck, it would be better not to have Apple stores than ones filled with these types of people. Such things hurt the Mac market, not help it.
As I said, retail stores may not even be on Apple’s roadmap. But if they are, I hope Steve Jobs and company will develop them with the care given to Mac hardware and software.