10th Anniversary: How Apple Stores rewrote the rules of retailing

“The retail industry has a hard case of Apple envy,” Scott Martin reports for USA Today. “For good reason. The maker of fashionable gadgets today celebrates 10 years since the launch of its first Apple Stores, marking a record run of sales and a new world order in retailing… Industry watchers are now closely monitoring Apple amid widespread speculation that it’s secretly planning a splashy in-store update to launch soon at Apple Stores.”

“Apple CEO Steve Jobs tapped one person widely credited for the stores’ success: Ron Johnson. Now an industry icon, Johnson had just performed a makeover for Target before joining Apple as senior vice president of retail in 2000,” Martin reports. “His admirers say Johnson is humble and imaginative, and has a knack for bringing in the right people. But most of all, they say, he’s always looking for ways to improve the customer experience.”

Martin reports, “Design has set Apple Stores apart. Under Johnson, the company launched 323 retail stores, employing 30,200 worldwide. The company has 16 high-profile stores with design flair meant to promote the brand, such as its glass cube store on Fifth Avenue in New York City, which is open 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year… All of these consumer touch-points that Apple nails translated into sales per square foot of $4,406 in 2010, blowing past rivals, says Apple analyst Charles Wolf of Needham & Co. It doesn’t hurt that Apple sells one-of-a-kind products that people desire. ‘The products that Apple sells are very lustful,’ says Wolf.”

“Apple shows no signs of slowing,” Martin reports. “The company plans to open 40 new retail stores, three-fourths of them outside the U.S., in 2011.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Happy 10th Birthday, Apple Retail Stores! After 10 years, we still love going into Apple Stores, incognito, and talking with staff about Apple products or even just quietly observing customers and staff.


    1. Kind of true.

      However, I usually act a little dumber than I actually am when I buy something at an Apple store — just to kind of see how they’d handle a newbie. So I could see how someone who runs a huge Apple fan site might take it to the next level 🙂

    1. That Microsoft Store in Bellevue Square is doing really poorly for traffic. It has about three times the floor space of the Apple Store, but generally about a quarter of the customers. I’m in that Apple Store once or twice a week, and it’s funny to walk by the MS Store and count the number of people in it…and then walk into the Apple Store 🙂

  1. How could you possibly manage being “incognito?” Doesn’t that first require some level of fame.

    @People of the Combox:

    You you all even know these people’s names? What they look like? No? Didin’t think so…

    1. I’d say they meant without publicizing they’re with MDN. MDN IS KNOWN in most all of the applecentric universe and I assure you Apple Store Staff knows MDN.

      1. Seems to me Luke is dead on with his last sentence, how would anyone know when a person says “Hey, I’m from MDN” wether that person truly is? We can verify Pogue, we can verify Mossberg, KNOWN persons. Noone knows MDN. The’re anonymous and faceless. You can walk in an Apple store and pose yourself as from MDN. I could too. So could your grandparents.

        That’s the point. And makes their ‘incognito’ part in the take a bit odd imho.

        Also, I do believe that in the US itself MDN is indeed quite known in the Apple community, but outside less so. I do (obviously), but many Apple users here I know do not. They do know macrumors (biggest), and often 9to5mac too somehow. Don’t know why, just seems the case.

  2. One of the key underpinnings of the retail strategy is the the products sell themselves if people get a chance to interact with them.

    You can copy the shirts, the decor, the locations, and the marketing – but if the product falls short of that high bar, then it won’t work.

    That’s creating a false brand that is inconsistent with your product. Eventually, the disappointment with customers will erode their long term confidence to trust your brand.

    The result is captured in the words of Christopher Walken in the movie “The Rundown”: “You’re dead. You just don’t know it yet.”

  3. Since nobody else has posted this:

    “I give them two years before they’re turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake.”

    — David A. Goldstein, president of researcher Channel Marketing Corp. in reference to the Apple retail store announcement, 2001.

  4. right after ipads came out when i was back east on vacation i brought my sister (a lifelong windows user) down to the apple store north of albany ny to get one. she couldn’t get over the “user experience” – said she had never been in a store like that.

  5. I think Jobs (for PCs) and Johnson (for retail) recognized that there is a real and unmet hunger for design. Johnson tapped into that for Target, and more so for AAPL.

    It’s not just a big-city, coastal elitist thing, either — most people regardless of income level or status appreciates it, as evidenced by Target’s success as set against Walmart.

  6. A couple of thoughts on the article:

    The Apple Stores’ debut defied logic at the time. Conventional wisdom was that computer retailing was a cut-throat and risky business. That was made clear when Gateway … shutter[ed] its remaining 188 stores in 2004.

    The Gateway debacle shouldn’t have made anything “clear”. Does anyone remember what an ill-conceived joke the “Gateway Country Stores” were? At first, you couldn’t walk out of the store with a computer — you had to order it in the store and have it shipped — thus removing the entire point of a “store” in the first place.

    Also, what makes the Apple Stores’ success even more amazing was just how dire the Apple retail situation was prior to their opening. Macs were only on sale in a small number of retailers, usually forced to sit in a corner, sad and neglected, while the sales reps would try to turn customers toward the PCs. Or else, if you were lucky, there was a sh*tty mom-and-pop Apple specialist retailer you could go to. Of course, that store would treat you like crap because they knew you had nowhere else to go.


  7. I’d love to see one of thos 40 stores come to Tsukuba, Japan. Then I could just drive there instead of having to make a 2 hour round trip by train to the Ginza store in Tokyo. A job opportunity might also exsist 🙂

  8. I don’t think Apple rewrote the retailing rules I think they reintroduced them.

    When I was younger and worked in retail after school and on weekends we were all well trained in the products we had to sell, the purchase and credit systems and there was a major focus on delighting the customer to the point where they would want to come back again.

    That seems to have been lost in the race to the bottom of the discount retailers who only focus on low prices and high volume.

    Of course, underlying it all is that a retailer has to offer something people want to buy…

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