It’s 3am on a freezing Saturday morning and London’s Regent Street is swarming with the usual assortment of drunken revellers on their way back from clubs and pubs, but this morning is different. Gathered together outside the elegant arches of the soon to be opened Apple Store are a collection of Mac fans from around the world, waiting patiently for the first European Apple Store to open its doors.
Heading up the front of the queue, which already stretches around the corner, is 19-year-old Stormy Shippy from Dallas Texas. This will be the third Apple Store opening he has attended. “There is a great atmosphere,” he said. “I’ve met loads of people here that I will definitely stay in touch with.”
Next in line with his father is Devin Allen, age 17, from Brooklyn. Devin and his father, Garry Allen are familiar faces at Apple Store openings, having attended the vast majority. Devin said: “The store is beautiful. They have really outdone themselves this time.” Devin arrived in the UK on Thursday and joined the queue at 10pm that day.
Garry Allen, one of the world’s Apple Store experts, was full of praise for the new store. “It is amazing what they have done with this old 1898 building. It shows how well Apple can adapt to the needs of other countries. For example, in Japan the Apple Stores feature steel exteriors and that fits in really well with the other stores. Here they have created something that works for Apple and fits in with the architecture and design of the area.”
Kevin Wun, 22, isn’t so far from home. He lives in London but didn’t want to miss out on the “all night party”. He explained: “I had to be here to show my respect and love for Apple by being here. The lucky bag is a bonus.”
Kevin has been to Apple Store openings in San Francisco and Tokyo. “Obviously I couldn’t miss this one,” he joked. “That would be worrying.”
By 5am the queue had extended further. According to rumours there were now almost 400 people waiting on the freezing cold London streets. Michael Jin from New Malden said: “It was at about 5am that the tiredness really hit. It was a long cold night but the people are warm. The atmosphere has been great and I’ve made loads of friends.”
Students Nikhil Ladma, Mike Walker and David Ellis from Imperial College joined the queue at midnight on Friday. The main draw is the lucky bags – the contents could be enough to make up for the cold night, “I’ve never shivered so much in my life,” said Nikhil.
The “first Italians in the queue” were Gennaro Alfano and Grazia Fonti from Naples and Rome. They arrived in the UK at 4pm on Friday and stopped only to buy a tent before joining the queue. “We had to come,” explained Gennaro. “This is a once in a life time experience.”
The best thing about the Store openings, according to Garry Allen is “seeing the enthusiasm of the staff.” When the doors opened at 10am the energy of the staff was “amazing”. Running down the long line of cold Mac fans the UK staff gave high-fives and whoops of joy and then convened in the front of the Store to dance and jump around.
Preceding the opening mass rumour swung through the expectant crowd that claimed Apple CEO Steve Jobs would attend the opening. This proved not to be case.
In Jobs’ absence the store was opened by Apple senior VP retail Ron Johnson and the manager of the UK store, John O’Grady. O’Grady is one of two US managers bought to the UK to lead the 136-strong contingent of UK store staff.
Inside the store Devin Allen described the experience: “Each store opening is impressive but I’d say that this is one of the top two events I’ve been to.”
One passionate member of the new Apple Store staff described his excitement at his new role. “I’ve worked in lots of retail places but this is something totally different. The atmosphere is amazing and I’m so thrilled to be a part of this.”