The Macalope’s so old that he remembers when it was Apple, not Microsoft, that had a retail problem.
By which he means he’s at least 15 years old.
But now the stinky-Reebok-under-a-pair-of-khaki-pants-and-a-red-polo-shirt-with-a-pin-on-it-that-says-“GARY—BEST BUY TEAM MEMBER” is on the other foot. Steve Wildstrom welcomes Microsoft to its retail nightmare.
This week, I stopped by several big box retailers, the sort that generate most of the sales of Windows PCs, and what I saw was dispiriting. Instead of the end caps, banners, ceiling-high stacks of boxed software, and the occasional brass band that accompanied past Windows launches, I saw a distinctly low key effort.
If you love photos of depressing retail displays that make a fifth-grade science fair project look like a Cecil B. DeMille production, click through for the picture.
The Macalope remembers well when the only place to find Apple products in a retail space was in the back of a Computer City or CompUSA, sandwiched between the peripherals of the damned. Now Microsoft, too, has learned—surely by coincidence and not at all from Apple—that it’s best not to let others handle your retail experience.
And, oh, the best retail experience just happens to look exactly like an Apple Store.
We’ve come a long way from this, haven’t we?
That’s Cliff Edwards back in 2001, pundit-splaining to Steve Jobs why Apple’s retail effort was DOOOOMED to failure. Edwards thought that instead of overextending itself into retail, Apple should work harder with its retail partners to, well, maybe get them to put a banner up over the three and a half feet dedicated to Apple products in the back of the store.
This is all water under the bridge, so there’s no real point in raking Edwards over the coals, but it is delightfully full of all kinds of wrong. Like this:
A good step would be to end the “think secret” approach that shrouds every new-product announcement. Covert operations worked beautifully when Jobs first arrived on the scene; his charismatic stage presence and Apple’s eye-popping designs created priceless buzz. Now, retailers complain that the secrecy prevents them from doing advance advertising to hype sales and clear out inventory. “They are the most secretive company I’ve ever done business with,” says one top retailer. “They should let the news leak out, to convince the world how exciting their stuff is. That’s how everyone else does it.”
To figure out how Apple should fix this problem, let’s talk to the dimwits who have no real interest in fixing it.
Maybe it’s time Steve Jobs stopped thinking quite so differently.
For long-time observers of the technology industry, it’s amusing to see the conventional wisdoms crumble one by one. Not only is Microsoft rushing to make its own stores, it’s blaming its hardware partners’ lousy designs for slow Windows 8 sales. The Macalope just knows all this schadenfreude is going straight to his thighs. The company is now so behind the retail eight ball that it’s scurried to throw up a plethora of holiday pop-up stores—so many that they run the risk of setting off a rash of West Side Story-style territory fights with Sunglasses Huts across the nation.
At least Microsoft’s retail staff has organized dance experience.
Oh, come on. You didn’t think the Macalope would get through a piece about Microsoft’s retail experience without linking to that, did you?