How Apple Retail Stores lost their luster

“Web Smith’s recent experience at his local Apple store in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, has been an exercise in frustration,” Mark Gurman and Matthew Townsend report for Bloomberg. “‘It took me forever to get someone to sell me the product,’ says Smith, who runs 2PM Inc., an e-commerce research and consulting firm. ‘It’s become harder to buy something, even when the place isn’t busy. Buying a product there used to be a revered thing, now you don’t want to bother with the inconvenience.'”

“Smith’s sentiment is shared by legions of Apple customers who vent on social media, customer forums and in conversations with reporters,” Gurman and Townsend report. “Only a few years ago, the raves easily outpaced the pans.”

“In interviews, current and former Apple employees blame a combination of factors. They say the stores have become mostly an exercise in branding and no longer do a good job serving mission shoppers like Smith. Meanwhile, they say, the quality of staff has slipped during an 18-year expansion that has seen Apple open more than 500 locations and hire 70,000 people,” Gurman and Townsend report. “In January, Apple Inc. stunned Wall Street, warning that revenue for the holiday quarter would come in well below forecasts, mostly owing to slowing sales of the iPhone. While weakening demand for Apple’s most important product largely reflects a maturing smartphone market, the problems at the stores weren’t helping. Weeks later, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook announced that retail chief Angela Ahrendts was leaving and would be succeeded by veteran Apple executive Deirdre O’Brien.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple’s giant-sized growing pains continue on multiple fronts from shipping product or lack thereof (Mac Pro) to decision-making (killing branded displays – seriously, who at Apple thought that was a good idea?) to shipping millions upon millions of badly-designed keyboards to the ongoing Apple Retail Store woes and beyond.

Apple is the most successful broken company in the history of the world... The butterfly keyboard is but one manifestation of Apple’s issues. The AirPower fiasco (printed on AirPods boxes no less) is another. Five+ years and counting with a dead-end goofball design on sale as the company’s flagship Mac, yet another. Need we go on? There have been many easily avoidable screwups over the years and, until the root cause is fixed — this stems from the very top with misplaced priorities and conflict aversion, to name just two biggies — these snafus will likely continue, further eroding Apple’s brand in the process.MacDailyNews, April 2, 2019

As for Apple Stores, especially the mall stores, what used to be a draw have become something to be avoided for years now due to overcrowding of what seems mainly to be people dealing with broken iPhones competing with people straining to hear free courses due to poor/no acoustical design by Apple interior designers, and asinine wooden boxes strewn about for “seating,” to name just three repellents. — MacDailyNews, April 15, 2019

When we walk into an Apple Store, we want to know where to go. Not mill about at random until someone puts us into some invisible queue. We also want a spacious Genius Bar (not “Grove”) where we can have some actual counter space to talk to an knowledgeable person while looking at the device in question together. It’s not that difficult. Steve Jobs, Ron Johnson, and – drum roll, please – Deirdre O’Brien got it right the first time. O’Brien was there from the outset. So, the good news is that there’s hope left after all.

Mallpocalypse: Even Apple Stores can’t save dying shopping malls – April 15, 2019


  1. Very much agreed. The stores were revolutionary in the beginning, under Jobs’ team. Now, I don’t bother, it’s a thoroughly annoying experience no different than the scads of knock-off stores. This isn’t the old days when Apple products were relegated to the dilapidated shelf in the back, if they were carried at all. I’d rather support the smaller, Apple authorized folks, honestly.

    1. Back in February, I finally broke down and bought an Apple Watch 4 in black stainless, a not insignificant purchase. Rather than buying online and waiting for shipping, I went to one of the local Apple Stores for pickup that night.

      When the sales clerk asked if I wanted help setting it up, I took them up on the offer. Too bad I was escorted to a giant DIY table with several others and only one Apple employee between all of us.

      I basically had to set it up myself as she was busy with others dealing with iPhone issues. I had some questions but just worked through them on my own rather than waiting for her to get to me.

      I also had strap issues. I’m 6’4″ with 8+ inch wrists. The large strap barely fits on the 2nd-to-last hole. Asked if they had anything bigger and she was stumped. She asked her manager and he said they couldn’t help me.

      I wasn’t delighted.

      For her, working at an Apple Stores wasn’t anything more than an after-school job no different than bagging groceries or waiting tables.

      I’ll wait for shipping next time. Going to the store was a waste of time and lessened the initial ownership experience.

      1. YES. This is exactly my experience.

        Sometimes even worse. There was a time when the sales guy tried to convince me to go and buy an Android phone instead.

        In my local store there is a totally blind employee. Who cannot help in the slightest way. She just calls some other clueless guy. On the one hand She is blind so I see the good in Apple employing her (even to do nothing). On the other hand it niggles me…is there no better placement for her?

        1. “when the sales guy tried to convince me to go and buy an Android phone instead.”
          I think you may have taken that the wrong way. 🙂 I’d guess they weren’t inept, they may have just found you difficult to deal with and would rather you buy an Android phone so you wouldn’t be back.

          1. So what you are saying is Apple employees aren’t trained well to deal with supposed ‘difficult customers’? Shit, I give them shit just to see if they can handle it gracefully.

            Ludicrous. What flipping planet are you living on Wrong again?

            1. A well trained salesman isn’t going to sell you something inappropriate.
              I can very well envision suggesting something Apple doesn’t sell to meet the customers needs and wants.

            2. “I give them shit just to see if they can handle it gracefully.”
              I know, I know and you yell at the kids to get off your lawn to see how fast they can move 🙂

              When you give people shit, one shouldn’t be surprised when they give you shit back LOL I guess they were seeing if you could handle it gracefully and… you’re still thinking about it to the point where you posted about it. They win?

    2. Revolutionary? I mean, I’ve heard of Steve Jobs worship but I don’t think what Apple’s doing was ever revolutionary. I mean, unlike CompUSA Apple’s stores had WORKING Macs, but does that make it revolutionary?

  2. Ha!!

    When I said this was happening 2 years ago (maybe 3 years) this board and MDN brushed it off.

    Same for that clueless woman (Arendts) who just took a cool $200 million for doing fuck all. MDN were singing her praises and saying how she was going to be a great CEO of Apple in the future. Jesus!!

    Apple can still move Cook and get an Engineer/Artist (like Steve was) into the CEO position. Or just get two, One Engineer and one Artist, as Steve put in place before he passed away.

  3. I have done scores of transactions at my Apple store at Eton in Cleveland Ohio. No problem ever with a transaction. In fact excellent service every time including several visits this year.

    I have one problem with Apple Retail. That is the incredible waste of valuable money hiring Angela Ahrendts to do essentially nothing. She added no value but received hundreds of millions in compensation. It was a pure image hire and she never made a serious change. And many spent years lauding her and making her out to be the next CEO when she in fact did not even understand Apple. A total waste that must be put on Tim Cook. At least now she is gone and the current replacement was a longtime Apple retail exec who probably knows what she is doing.

    1. I’ve generally had good experiences at Apple stores. I’m a little disappointed that they don’t have at least one person around with deep knowledge of the apps, but I get good help with iPhones and iPads. I just bought a new iMac at the Apple store and had a good experience.

      I get it that not everyone has a good experience and there is room for improvement, but they are not awful.

  4. For as often as I need to go into an Apple Store, I have never had an issue. I have friends and relatives that have never had any issues either. I’ve been waited on promptly and if I am just looking, I am asked more than once if I needed assistance.

    That said, there is probably always a time that you can walk into Apple Store. and perhaps some stores are much busier than those in my area. and not get the assistance you need as fast as you’d like it.

    I think there are is always some media person looking for an excuse to write a story about a bad experience and perhaps try to get one, and succeed..

    For whatever reason Angela Ahrendts appears to have done nothing at a significant cost to Apple, because much of what she did rarely made headlines it seemed, other than the occasional “initiaitve’, it was pretty much as waste of Apple’s time and money…

    However, how soon is Deirdre going to take some action to right the ship? I don’t think Apple Stores are in really bad shape, but there are obvious ways that improvements can be made. Apple of course needs to take some actions to rectify obvious issues as well.

  5. My comments are directed at the editors of MDN exclusively – apologies to all others that read the following comment.

    Regarding your anti-Tim Cook opinions from, well, since Tim Cook took over from Steve Jobs – Enough is enough.

    My personal belief concerning the reasons for your continued distaste for Tim Cook’s management style is that your reasons for bashing him are based more upon his life style choices and political affiliations than his performance as Apple’s CEO. There are reasons that Apple became the world’s number one company and it’s not because it’s broken!

    It is one thing to view anyone or any organization and offer unbiased critical observations in an impartial way striving towards a goal for improvement. Your’s are neither unbiased or impartial when it comes to one person in particular.

    I don’t mind cheerleaders. Your staff, over the years, have done a commendable job at promoting all the great accomplishments from Apple. But your misguided attempts at “improvement” by creating a scapegoat to pillar should never be allowed by persons with any semblance of honesty and honor.

    1. You’re forgetting that MDN is the natural home of the clueless Basement_CEO™️ crowd, forever reviving the Jobs memory as tho’ the world hasn’t moved on. Entitlement, misogyny and homophobia are the tent poles of choice for editorial policy. Aka ‘hits’.

      1. Where has MDN been wrong to criticize Cook?

        While you’re failing to find anything on that front, also please fail to cite any examples of entitlement, misogyny and homophobia on MDN’s part, as well, because there aren’t any.

      2. LOL! Very funny but quite accurate as I doubt most have ran enterprises even a 10th Apple’s size. There is a VERY good reason they’re posing on a message board instead of running a global organization.

    2. Ah, the old “if you criticize Tim Cook, you’re a homophobe” argument.


      It’s only trotted out whenever Cook screws up (a routine occurrence) and Cook sycophants can’t refute the legitimate and growing criticism.

      Read this and tell me what’s not true:

      Tim Cook is not the best person to be CEO of Apple

      When you can’t find anything false, don’t stoop to your baseless homophobia attack, just admit you’re wrong.

      Do you have a reason why you want to protect Cook and excuse away every screwup that happens under his watch? Is it because you are somehow invested in having an openly-declared homosexual running a large company? Can Cook ever be legitimately criticized in your eyes or does his homoseuality absolve him of everything?

      1. I just read Tim Cook is not the best person to be CEO of Apple.

        Okay, I can’t find anything that’s not true. I was wrong.

        I am a homosexual who is invested in having an openly-declared homosexual running a large company. In my eyes, his homoseuality absolves him of everything, regardless of how egregious it is.

        Anyone who criticizes Cook, I will instantly tag a ‘homophobe” just as anyone who criticized Obama’s policies, I tagged a “racist.” Anyone who votes for a man over a woman will be tagged a “misogynist,” of course. You get the idea. I am a liberal steeped in groupthink after all. That’s how we roll. Alinsky’s Rules for Retards.

        Cook can go over half a decade without updating the company’s flagship Mac and that’s just hunky dory with me. He can print AirPower on AirPods boxes and then never ship it. He’s an operations genius. And a proud gay man, don’t forget. Don’t ever forget. He’s GAY and PROUD. He makes me feel better about myself and, really, that’s all that matters. My feelings. He’s got the Gay Card of Absolution that never runs out.

        The only thing he could do that I’d consider a fireable offense would be to declare himself straight.

  6. The biggest problem I have had with the stores is that they are incredibly overcrowded. The Apple Store in Valley Fair mall less than 5 miles away from HQ is a good example. This is a perfect case where Apple needed to expand the location.
    So like others here, I have no idea what AA achieved in her tenure at Apple. I almost think that she was brought in to bring back the flair and style that Jobs had and maybe end up taking over the CEO role. She never got close to that.

    1. “they are incredibly overcrowded. —
      I have no idea what AA achieved in her tenure at Apple.”
      Well, part of her job was to increase the number of people going to the stores, sooo, yeah.

  7. the stores are too small. the meet me at the door, sign me up for something, is annoying. the old outdated computers selling at a non reduced price is a non starter. the fact that so many need help with products, indicate there is a real use problem. software and hardware not intuitive to use. the layout is boring, clean, but boring.

    the watch is lame! stop buying that piece of junk tech. it is the same thing, with a bunch of different prices. gee, you people have more money then sense.

  8. Apple Stores are now just a bad outdoor theater festival, with everyone taught where to stand and their lines, even if most don’t understand the play.

    Nevermind the weather is humid, beer is flat and wine is overpriced, everyone in attendance is in on the act, too as the pretend to be so immersed with the pro-am quality of entertainment.

    Innovation should extend to the shopping experience also. This system was set up to make Apple a dominate force in retail. It succeeded, but just like our very quick defeat of the Iranian government, there wasn’t enough planning by Apple on what to do next.

  9. “weakening demand for Apple’s most important product largely reflects a maturing smartphone market”, I tend to disagree with this statement. Apple’s most important product is not the iPhone. It is their biggest money maker, but not their most important product. Apple should follow what Porsche (the car company) did and do a bit of soul searching. Like the 911 is Porsche’s most important product, I would surmise that the Mac Pro is Apple’s most important product. Followed by Apple’s customer care. Everything else Apple does is based on the reputation they built from their two “halo” products. When your stores are empty and your staff of geniuses are no longer excited about what they do, it means you have nothing compelling to bring people in anymore.
    When Apple put out a macbook Pro, and an iMac pro and told me that is what “most” of our customers want so no need to up the Mac Pro first and foremost, that told me, Apple was done. Apple will settle for mediocrity. No longer being the best they can be, shooting to be the state of the art, but going for the (yours and my) money.
    Nobody needs a quantum computer, or a Porsche 911, or other halo product. But I kind of remember some start up CEO saying “Let’s put it out there and see what people do with it”. Let’s set up customer service to help our customers change their world with our halo product. The rest of the stuff (iPads, iphones, watches, etc) will follow. The rest of the stuff will also generate the bulk of your revenue, which will fund more development of your halo product.
    General Motors threw their reputation out when they took their Chevy Cavalier and prettied it up and called it a Cadillac, at that time, “standard of excellence” . Apple should not follow suit and stick “Pro” on all their products, including how they market to and support their customers.
    Okay…I’m done ranting.

  10. Going into the Apple store to buy something is almost as bad now as going into the California DMV without an appointment. Very similar wait times for service. Why even bother, just order it online and get it shipped. Apple stores are soon going the way of the dodo.

  11. We just went to the Ala Moana Apple Store last week to pick up our iPad Mini 5s. I’d ordered them online for pick up at the store, to make sure they had them in stock. No problem. We walked in, and shortly someone asked us if we needed anything. I told him we were here to pick up an order and showed him the QR code that Apple sends you. He scanned it and said, I’ll be right back. He brought out the two Minis and gave us a nice bag (he said we get it for free because we ordered online). Maybe they’re affected by the plastic bag ban too. Apple’s bag is made of thick paper anyway.

    I had a few questions about News+ and he very patiently described how it works, how to set up Family Sharing to share the subscription (showed us his own setup for his family), and answered all of our questions. Stellar service.

    As busy as the Ala Moana store is, I never felt like I had to wait too long for service or attention. The only time I’ve had to wait is when I came in for a Genius Bar appointment and just had to wait my turn. There was always a staff asking if we needed anything or had questions. Maybe it’s not the same in all stores, but my experiences here have been more than satisfactory.

    That guy could benefit from a little patience and less neediness. Maybe the mainland stores could learn a little aloha.

    1. You have to remember, most of these folks liked it when they walked into the Apple Store and it was pretty much empty. It made them feel special to be one of the few customers in the stores. (A low traffic retail store is NOT a good thing)

      Now, when they go, they see a lot of people, all kinds of people buying all kinds of things… mostly non-Mac. It highlights how Apple’s marketing is no longer catered to their demographic and how much less their purchasing factors into Apple’s bottom line.

      They go into the store with this pretty good sized chip on their shoulder, their “revered” status having been revoked, and they wonder what’s wrong with the STORE 🙂

      From the story:
      “Buying a product there used to be a revered thing”
      No, no, buying a product there was like buying a product anywhere. The receipt just looked a little different.

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