Apple Retail Stores: How much is too much of a good thing?

A study by Asymco, reported in RetailWire, “says that while Apple Stores are doing great, they are not fully capitalizing on their traffic flow,” Al McClain reports for Forbes.

“Asymco founder Horace Deiu told The Channel Register that while Apple is adding retail employees at a rapid rate, their stores are too crowded, and so store expansion is the most obvious solution,” McClain reports. “With 361 locations worldwide, the question is whether Apple should start expanding at a rapid pace to capitalize on demand, or keep with the ‘go slow’ approach that has made it successful.”

McClain reports, “In our discussion on RetailWire, our BrainTrust panel of retailing experts seemed to think that the Asymco study missed the mark. Adrian Weidmann of StoreStream Metrics summed it up this way: ‘The challenge for Apple is balance… Growing too fast and not being able to maintain and provide quality customer service would adversely affect the Apple brand… Too much accessibility may erode that personal bond between Apple fans and the brand.'”

“The bottom line appears to be that Apple is indeed leaving money on the table in the short-term,” McClain reports. “But, thinking long-term, they are keeping their legions of fans happy, and their crowded stores create the distinct impression that they are desirable shopping/learning places.”

Read more in the full article here.


  1. Keep them slightly crowded – the media trolls would be onto any sign that Apple Stores were less crowded(never mind added expansion space) and therefore less ‘popular’ followed by ‘fading brand’ posts. It’s all part of the media groupthink that Apple can’t keep it up.
    No pun intended.

  2. Even with the crowds, turnaround is fast. Last week I went in to buy several iPods to use as stocking-stuffers. The store was packed, but I was out of there within five minutes.

    1. Exactly. Apple response to this “problem” will be innovation which allows customers in a crowded store to be served rapidly. Just look the Easy Pay optio: With EasyPay, an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S user can scan the barcode of an accessory while in store, and complete the transaction using the same credit card information tied to their Apple ID.”

  3. I would suggest that Apple encourage more accessory shops to install themselves in the neighborhood of Apple Stores (just give hem a small discount on Apple products, or provide them with e.g., iPad cash registers. That would strengthen the ecosystem even more and increase the visibility of the “Apple neighborhood”. — Some of this may already be happening naturally. When I visited the Univ.Ave. store in Palo Alto a few months ago, I was delighted to see nothing but Mac laptops, almost on every table, in the coffee shop accross the street. Very impressive.

  4. Horace Deiu is a complete idiot. The crowds that one almost always find in many Apple stores create a festive atmosphere. The vibe is nothing at all like being at a crowded sale at the mall. Sales people on the floor can ring up customers’ purchases on the spot, so no standing in line despite the crowd. Apple stores are brilliant. They don’t need no stinking critiques by morons like Horace Deiu.

    1. Easy there, omalansky. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume your reaction is a knee-jerk one. Dediu is an insightful and creative analyst and commentator. You would do well to acquaint yourself with his work…

    2. There are two towns. One is crowded with people and have a carnival atmosphere and the another is empty of people with a lethargic ambience. As a shopper or tourist, which town would you rather visit? It’s no wonder that stores like Microsoft, Dell, Sony and Samsung do not have the magnetic pull of the Apple Stores.

  5. So we have a retail analyst once again trying to advise Apple about how they should run their stores.

    When Apple opened it’s first store, the ‘expert’ opinion was “I give them two years before they’re turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake.”

    Apple invariably does the very opposite of what many ‘experts’ advise and seems to stay incredibly successful, yet those ‘experts’ still try to offer advice about what Apple should do.

    After so many utterly inept predictions and prophecies from so many people who claim to have some sort of insight, I’m amazed that the press continue to report their conclusions as though they had any credibility.

  6. Readers forget sometimes how far Apple went in developing the Apple Store concept before anyone saw the first retails store.

    Apple commandeered an entire warehouse and built a real Apple Store inside just the way they wanted and then tried it and modified it until it “felt right”.

    So what have they learned since with trials of people in that warehouse and with functioning retail stores?

    My guess is they learned that bigger is better given what has happened with the store “upgrades” like we see in NYC and Newport Beach.

    Apple doesn’t shoot from the hip. They take a lot of pain in their trials and experiments before they commit.

  7. “their crowded stores create the distinct impression that they are desirable shopping/learning places”

    Nope! Not for everyone and not for me. I feel like I’m in a bee hive or an ant colony in a crowded space, which is why I hate shopping in malls. And as for a learning environment — way too busy and noisy. Older folks have difficulty filtering out extraneous noise; it interferes with focus and concentration.

  8. It may be crowded, but I can always leave with my purchase within a few minutes of deciding I’m ready to leave.

    Just find a Specialist, with whatever I’m buying. He or she swipes my credit card on their customized iPod touch, asks if I want a printed receipt or have it emailed. I say emailed. I walk out with my purchase, without a bag (unless I want one).

    In a typical retail store, I would be waiting in line at the register for 10-15 minutes, if they actually managed to attract that many customers.

    So an Apple Store crowd does not effect the shopping experience, except during a special event like a product launch. And during a product launch, lining up around the block is part of the experience.

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