How Apple Retail Stores changed for the worse, says former store manager

“When it comes to Apple stores, they’ve long been regarded as a fundamental pillar of the Apple experience. Malls still beg for an Apple store to open, because it changes the tone of the neighborhood,” Chris Matyszczyk writes for ZDNet. “Apple stores have, though, themselves changed. Yes, there are still the glorious flagship stores, monuments to understated taste and an overabundance of noise.”

“From this consumer’s point of view, there seem to have been few meaningful innovations. The last, perhaps, involved the disappearance of the physical Genius Bar,” Matyszczyk writes. “A departed Apple store manager offered me his inside view of the ups, the downs and the slight disappointments of a long period of Apple history.”

“‘In my opinion, the golden age of Apple retail was during Ron Johnson’s tenure,’ he told me. There was explosive growth and Apple Stores were truly unique and innovative in the retail space,” Matyszczyk writes. “Once Johnson left, however, there was the torment of John Browett. ‘These were the darker Middle Ages,’ said my source… Browett lasted slightly longer than the average flu.”

“In came Angela Ahrendts, revered in the fashion world. It seemed that she was having an effect on the stores. She wanted them to become town squares, though how this might lessen the din in the store or improve the retail experience was somewhat unclear,” Matyszczyk writes. “My source explained: ‘Angela Ahrendts was supposed to be the Renaissance that never quite was. We were getting conflicting direction on a semi-regular basis and a lot of new initiatives on what seemed like a weekly basis. Nothing seemed to quite stick.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Matyszczyk’s source isn’t too keen on the prospects for a return to greatness under Apple’s head of HR, and now retail, too, Deirdre O’Brien. Hopefully he’s wrong. One thing’s for sure, at least in mall stores, a simple addition could make the experience better for everyone involved: Some attention to acoustics is required where none seems to have been given to date.

Trying to offer free classes is ridiculous if you can’t hear due to the incessant, yet needless overly-bright din. You may not be able to easily make the stores less crowded, but you certainly can make them less acoustically bright and therefore less annoyingly loud.

Two things additional things about Apple Retail Stores: One, a constant since inception, is that the stores are overly acoustically “bright” making them extremely loud. Hard floors, glass, hard ceilings; it can get deafening. In smaller stores, this makes hearing instructors’ classes, or even staff members more difficult than it should be. Some acoustical design (sound deadening) would go a long, long way to making the stores more comfortable overall. Secondly, the stores are increasingly more crowded – a nice problem to have – which is obviously recognized as an issue as we see Apple expanding stores pretty much wherever they can. (Just don’t forget the acoustics! Quieter stores will seem less crowded, even if they actually aren’t.)MacDailyNews, August 16, 2018

Ron Johnson: Apple Retail Stores ‘are a victim of their own success’ – February 12, 2019
Apple’s new retail head needs to fix the biggest problem with Apple Retail Stores – February 8, 2019
What’s next for Apple’s Retail Store empire? – February 8, 2019
New Apple retail chief Deirdre O’Brien receives stock grant worth up to $8.2 million – February 8, 2019
Angela Ahrendts’ Apple departure points to wider mystery – February 6, 2019
Examining Angela Ahrendts’ five-year tenure as head of Apple Retail – February 6, 2019
Apple CEO Cook thanks Angela Ahrendts in company-wide memo to employees – February 6, 2019
Apple names third retail chief in seven years – February 6, 2019
Apple’s Angela Ahrendts to depart in April; Deirdre O’Brien named senior vice president of Retail + People – February 5, 2019
Apple’s Angela Ahrendts has a plan for next-gen retail – January 29, 2019
Why Angela Ahrendts left Burberry for Apple – June 20, 2018
Ralph Lauren to add Apple’s Angela Ahrendts to Board of Directors – May 9, 2018
Angela Ahrendts is again Apple’s best-paid employee – December 29, 2017
Apple now requires CEO Tim Cook to fly only on private jets – December 28, 2017
Apple CEO Tim Cook paid close to $102 million for fiscal 2017 – December 28, 2017
Forbes’ World’s 100 Most Powerful Women: Angela Ahrendts #13, Laurene Powell Jobs #14 – November 2, 2017
Deirdre O’Brien named Apple’s vice president of People – July 21, 2017
Tim Cook took home $10.3 million, Angela Ahrendts earned $25.7 million in 2015 – January 6, 2016
Apple’s Angela Ahrendts emerges as highest-paid U.S. woman with $83 million – May 5, 2015
Apple’s retail chief Angela Ahrendts paid $73.4 million in cash and stock last year; BoD member Drexler steps down – January 22, 2015
Apple’s new retail chief Ahrendts granted $68 million in restricted stock – May 6, 2014


  1. In my opinion the Apple retail experience needs a complete overhaul. Angela in my mind was truly a waste highly overpaid and did nothing to improve the experience. Town square type of experience, for what? These free classes should be in a classroom environment it’s the most effective way for people to learn. Not out in the open just to put on a show.

    1. Exactly. That whole town square metaphor was one of the most ridiculous things I ever heard. It was like someone tried to think up the most ludicrous Apple speak nonsense they could come up with to sell to upper management.

      1. I think those pushing this envisioned great minds leisurely thinking and sharing great thoughts while wearing togas and sandals. Whereas reality is “I want to pick up a new Mac Book,” or “why isn’t my Watch working with my iPhone as advertised?”

  2. I can’t hear myself think inside an Apple store and haven’t been able to for the past few years. I dread having to go to one now and used to look very forward to it. I also used to go about once a month and now I go about once a year and only if I absolutely must.

    Incidentally, this correlates inversely with my Apple purchases, as one might predict. I go to BestBuy now, if I need to see and physically hold the product and then either buy it there or online from an approved Apple retailer.

    1. I used to go to B&H Photo, but I just got a notice in the mail that sadly, they won’t be able to avoid California blood money. So if I buy a $4000 computer, I have to provide the state with $400 for the privilege.

      1. It’s not blood money… it was a loophole.

        If you live in California… then it makes sense that you should pay sales taxes to California if you get something shipped there. If you want lower sales taxes (and higher income taxes) then move to Oregon. Ultimately, you made the choice to live in CA.

        The point of sale should be where the item is received, not where it is shipped from. This is why you don’t pay Chinese sales tax when you purchase an iPhone.

      2. Oh no!! What will be the point of buying anything at B&H anymore then? Bummer.

        Hmmm, maybe I’ll have to buy that $8,000 tax-free PC Workstation from Washington State than a new Mac Pro after all.

  3. I used get my iPhone fix from a nearby Sprint store instead. The nearest Apple to me (at least in the town I used to live in) was half-hour away. Where I live now the Apple store is only 10 minutes. Not sure what the one here is like, as I’ve only been once, but after dealing with Sprint, I’m sure the experience is going to be much, much better.

  4. It used to be a pleasure to go to the Apple Store. Not anymore. Now it is an experience to be avoided at any cost. When you go there you know you’re going to listen to some (let’s be frank) idiot who would be selling shoes if there was no Apple Stores. This person has been indoctrinated into becoming an automaton in a blue polo shirt with numerous scripts that attempt to explain the absurdity you’re about to be slapped with. For example, why you are about to pay a kings ransom for a fifty cent repair or why an obvious issue cannot be diagnosed unless you surrender your devices for days at a time.

    Like much about Apple, the stores are a caricature of former top of the line, best in quality professionalism. Now they are a joke.

    I have two, no 3 broken iPads and one broken Apple Watch, all with simple repairs that I should be able to buy the parts for but I cannot trust that Apple won’t find some devious way to muck up using the parts I purchase, so I have to go to the Apple Store where I will pay 3 times in time and 3 times the money to get the repairs done. I will also be forced to speak with the automaton. Talk about needing to replace people with AIs. Seriously, I think of the Apple Store and I start to wonder if I don’t have a rectal exam I can’t do that day or something, especially considering the experience is anatomically similar.

    It’s just another symptom of the Apple that is vs. the Apple that was. This new Apple is not about making insanely great products or offering insanely great service. This new Apple is about lifting you up by the ankles and shaking until every last nickel falls to ground and thanking you with prayer hands as you leave the door. This new Apple is about binding you to their so called “ecosystem” with trickery as opposed to making you want to stay there.

    This new Apple is about taking years and years to update a computer. It’s about Touch Bars no one wants. It’s about crappy keyboards that people can’t stand. It’s about dongles, dongles, dongles.

    This new Apple is no longer about making highly technical experiences enjoyable, it’s about stripping away versatility until all you’re left with is a scooter when you needed a car, and charging 3 times the cost of the car.

    I still love the macOS, FileMaker and the Bash command line. Those are the only three aspects of using the Mac in business I appreciate. I’m betting Apple will take away the command line in the not too distant future. That’s their way now. Look for something useful that allows you to avoid them, and “deprecate” it.

    1. Phil S. did you read this post (“used to be a pleasure to go to the Apple Store. Not anymore”) and what followed?

      –Broken, indoctrinated, idiot, caricature, yrs to update, shaking by ankles, stripping away, ecosystem bind….

      Erosion of a premium brand.

      1. Using such examples when in pursuit of excellence is pointless and naive… unless a “dead company” serves as an example of a path to pursue. BB isn’t exactly that different, except they sell dishwashers and vacuum cleaners.

  5. Chris Matyszczyk’s article seems on target based on my experience.


    “Apple’s retail mandate truly was to just do whatever we had to in order to delight a customer. We could take all sorts of discretionary action to make people happy.”

    That attitude unfortunately is long gone. Arrive five minutes late for a Genius appointment and they won’t even talk with you, let alone reschedule you in the store. The attitude seems to have gone from confidence to arrogance.

    Overcrowded to the point the Fire Marshall should intervene.

    Build more stores, they are so overcrowded it I dread going there.

    Support personal knowledge

    Quality of tech support has really declined. The knowledge level of the average Genius was superb. No longer!

  6. used to enjoy going into an apple store. now, it’s hit or miss. quality of the sales people varies widely, the trick is to find a good one.

  7. First, I want to say hello to the Store Ops employee who’s been assigned to read MDN today.

    Next, I’ll chime in. Apple Retail was magical under Ron. Senior leadership listened to managers and worked hard to make changes to better support the stores. Ron’s departure was a huge blow to the organization and I’d argue one from which it never rebounded.

    In the end, the stores are frankly a victim of their own success. They’re busy, crowded, and not really fun to visit. I have an iPad Pro that needs replaced and I’m procrastinating taking it in because of the chaos. Even as a former manager, I’m confused when I enter – unsure where to go or exactly where to stand while I wait. The whole experience is awkward and feels disorganized. It’s a giant game of waiting: wait for help, wait for your product, wait for a bag, wait for service, wait while they disappear to test it. What started out as a vision to move folks through the store quickly has turned into a slow roll that forces folks to think of every way they can to avoid the stores.

  8. I agree with the sound issue. More than that, there is a harshness to the space. Apple’s computers are designed to be hard but smooth in a way that allows the hardness to be acceptable. The stores are uncomfortable to sit in even when you can find a space.

  9. Apple first entered the retail space because few were doing justice to the Macs of the time and they were a godsend- not only the Apple stuff but a great selection of peripherals and SW.

    Now they are iPhone showrooms full of iPhone stuff you can get almost anywhere. Not a Thunderbolt 3 dock to be seen, but lots of stuff you can buy at any Wal-Mart, Best Buy or AT&T store.

  10. Besides the allegedly bad acustics, if there are major problems for the customer in the area of in-store repairs, then the latter could be attributed to recent increases in errors from careless design and manufacturing, necessitating a larger percentage of disappointed Apple customers to seek remedies in the Apple store, thus contributing to overcrowding and to noise.

    While the accumulated noise must have been unintended at first, I think that Apple now wants to keep it because it contributes to giving the visitor an impression of an active and lively environment. And it’s the acoustics of a cathedral adding to the community experience, of a town hall. Therefore, if I am correct, Apple will not moderate it for those reasons.

    1. As far as I can tell, Angela changed a lot of things including the concept of what an Apple Store should reflect. I don’t see actual improvement, however, in the overall experience. Ron got a job at JC Penny, I guess because he thought he was moving up. He failed. I wonder if Apple might want him back or if he would be willing to play the Prodigal Son.

  11. For many problems with Macs I gave up on Apple a while ago. I went for a mix of old and new school.

    I trawled the net and went through a few issues of Mac Life (which I’ve recently discontinued with my subscription) and got together a series of troubleshooting steps.
    I then placed all the information in ring binder along with fixes for wifi and anything else related to computer problems.

    My wife’s telecommuting computer (my hand me down 20 inch iMac) has been launching with a folder with a question mark. I consulted the fixit manual and eventually got to zapping the PRAM and presto it now works absolutely fine.

    I also recommend regularly using a commercial diagnostic and repair programme. I use Techtool Pro and I refuse to go down their rip-off upgrade path. It fixes any minor problems before they become major ones and also speeds up my iMac.

    I hope that helps fill the gap of having to go to Apple stores. Of course if it’s a hardware issue the you may end up at one of their stores.

  12. How about the part where a customer conducts a $2800 purchase transaction standing shoulder to shoulder at a table populated by kids playing with iPads and phones. Your transaction space is an edge of the table where you lay out the purchase documents and your diver’s license and credit cards. You also lay down all your old devices. You then punch in your passwords to one or more devices, multiple times, in the middle of this very public setting. All the while shouting transaction details to the sales rep, who needs to shout back.

    Heck of a job, Tim. Hope those new movie deals pan-out.

  13. The stores really started to change for the worse even under Ron Johnson’s tenure, I used to work in one and the problem was with the management hiring, the issue was that they were hiring retail people and not Apple people, we had several assistant managers hired hadn’t even owned a Mac. The went from being a place of community where everyone was excited about apple, to just a really slick looking place run buy retail drones that didn’t give a shit about the Apple culture.

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