“Not a cash register is in sight. The electronics on display are all powered up and ready for use. Personal trainers, specialists and newly minted concierges in aqua blue shirts make the Apple Store feel part salon, part Internet cafe — just without the espresso,” May Wong reports for The Associated Press.

“Over the past year, Apple has revamped its 201 stores, changing the layout, adding services and increasing its staffing. The ‘concierge’ service that Apple launched last week is only the latest initiative designed to draw more visitors and bolster already record-breaking sales,” Wong reports.

“Clipboard-carrying concierges greet customers at the door to direct them to the right section of the store or to the personal shopper or trainer with whom they had made an appointment. Several others mill the floor in case someone has a question or is ready to buy an iPod, an iPhone or a Macintosh computer,” Wong reports. “With cash registers removed, a common question nowadays is, ‘Where do I pay?’ The store employee would instantly reply, “Right here,” and whip out a portable scanner from a hip holster.”

“Apple started eliminating checkout areas at stores last year and has now finished arming each store employee with handheld scanners for faster transactions,” Wong reports. “That has freed up space for shiny wares or one-on-one consultations. The 11-foot counter used in the past for the ‘Genius Bar,’ the in-store technical support section, has been extended to about 35 feet per store.

Even without cash registers “sales are flying high,” Wong reports. “The retail stores hosted more than 100 million visitors and produced about $4.2 billion in revenue in Apple’s fiscal year that ended in September, up nearly 24% from $3.4 billion the previous year — in line with the Cupertino-based company’s overall sales growth.”

“Apple has sold more than 120 million of its market-leading iPod digital media players, introducing millions of people to Apple’s design aesthetics,” Wong reports. “Apple says that more than half of the computers sold at Apple stores are to people new to the Macintosh platform. After hovering for years with a 2% to 3% share of the PC market in the United States, Apple’s slice has now grown to 8%, according to market researcher Gartner Inc.”

Full article here.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t once again bring you David Goldstein’s May 2001 prediction regarding Apple Retail Stores, “I give them two years before they’re turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake.”