Retail

Apple opened their first retail store in 2001, in an effort to provide the best experience for buying their products. Today, Apple retail has over 500 retail stores internationally.

History

Jobs began a concerted campaign to help sales by improving the retail presentation of Macintosh computers. Even with new products launched under Jobs’ watch, like the iMac and the PowerBook G3 and an online store, Apple still relied heavily on big box computer and electronics stores for most of their sales. There, customers continued to deal with poorly trained and ill-maintained Mac sections that did not foster customer loyalty to Apple and did not help differentiate the Mac user-experience from Windows.

Tim Cook, who joined Apple in 1998 as Senior Vice President for Worldwide Operations, announced the company would “cut some channel partners that may not be providing the buying experience. We’re not happy with everybody.” Jobs severed Apple’s ties of every big box retailer, including Sears, Best Buy, Circuit City, Computer City and Office Max to focus its retail efforts with CompUSA. Between 1997 and 2000, the number of Mac authorized resellers dropped from 20,000 to just 11,000.

In 1999, Jobs personally recruited Millard Drexler, former CEO of Gap Inc., to serve on Apple’s board of directors. In 2000, Jobs hired Ron Johnson from Target. The retail and development teams headed by Allen Moyer from The Walt Disney Company then began a series of mock-ups for the Apple Store inside a warehouse near the company’s Cupertino Headquarters.

Original Apple Store- Tyson Corner

On May 15, 2001, Jobs hosted a press event at Apple’s first store, located at the Tysons Corner Center mall in Tysons, Virginia near Washington, D.C.  The store officially opened on May 19, along with another store in Glendale Galleria in Glendale, California. More than 7,700 people visited Apple’s first two stores in the opening weekend, spending a total of US$599,000.

the Apple retail program established its merits, bypassing the sales-per-square-foot measurement of competing nearby stores, and in 2004 reached $1 billion in annual sales, the fastest of any retailer in history. Sales continued to grow, reaching $1 billion a quarter by 2006. In 2011, Apple Stores in the United States had an average revenue of $473,000 for each employee.

Apple has since re-established ties with major big box retailers like Best Buy and Staples. Authorized Apple resellers have a dedicated store-within-a-store section, offering a distinctive Apple-style experience to showcase products. The relationship with Best Buy calls for the company to send Apple Solutions Consultants to train Best Buy employees to be familiar with Apple’s product lineup.

Changes

In May 2011, Apple replaced their paper cards and information displays that were placed next to products with interactive iPad 2 displays, called “Smart Signs”. The new displays added more information about the product, and let customers press a button to signal needed assistance. This transition from paper to touch displays was dubbed “Apple Store 2.0” by several online blogs.

Apple Smart Signs

In November 2011, Apple updated its “Apple Store” iOS app to let U.S. customers use an “EasyPay” feature to buy products through their iPhone. The feature, which lets users choose the specific product model they want and gives users an option for picking up the product at a nearby Apple Store with the product in stock, aims to simplify and speed up shopping. If not immediately in stock, the feature gives users an estimated pick-up time. While inside an Apple Store, customers can also scan product barcodes to find technical specifications, ratings and reviews.

In November 2013, 9to5Mac reported that Apple would begin using an “iBeacon” location-based notification technology. The iBeacon functionality, inside the “Apple Store” iOS app, lets consumers inside Apple Stores receive useful notifications about products, pricing and features, in an attempt to improve the shopping experience. Officially confirmed by the Associated Press the following month, the feature rolled out across all of Apple’s retail stores in the United States.

In May 2014, Apple Store employees started using iPhone 5S for their handheld payments portal, rather than the previous iPod Touchdevices. The upgrade lets customers buy products with RFID tags, supports credit card chips and PIN entry, and offers improved support for scanning the Wallet iOS app.

In August 2015, Apple Stores replaced the dedicated Smart Signs displays next to products, by having the products themselves installed with apps that run demos and product information.

In early April 2016, as part of an initiative to become more environmental-friendly, Apple sent an email to employees of Apple Stores that they would begin a transition process with their shopping bags, moving away from the plastic bags that customers get when they buy products in the stores, and switching to paper bags with 80% recyclable materials, with the company expecting the transition to happen on April 15. In the email, Apple also wrote that employees should first ask the customer if they want a bag, rather than giving them one without asking.

In August 2016, Apple announced that it would drop the “Store” branding when referring to individual store locations, such as changing “Apple Store, The Grove” into “Apple The Grove” and “Apple Store, Mayfair” into “Apple Mayfair”. The primary areas of the change happened on Apple’s website and store pages.

In July 2017, Apple added “smart home experiences” to 46 of its retail stores, letting visitors use an Apple device to control smart home appliances in the stores such as light bulbs and ceiling fans, while screens offer a look inside a virtual house that the user can control, such as lowering window shades.

In January 2018, Apple added new spaces for its new smart speaker, HomePod.

Next-Generation Stores

Since their opening, Apple has changed as a company. Many new products have been added including iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch, and more. Along with these new products, traffic has also increased- making smaller stores harder to use.

Apple is currently in the process of renovating many stores across the world- some even adding a floor or taking over nearby storefronts.

Designed by Jony Ive and Angela Ahrendts, the idea was to make Apple Stores into “town squares”, in which people come naturally to the store as a gathering place, and to “help foster human experiences that draw people out of their digital bubbles”. The new design will be adopted to every store Apple has, and while renovation is undergoing, stores are either relocated or temporarily closed. The new look often includes open spaces with some combination of indoor trees, touch-sensitive sequoia wood tables and shelves for displaying products, large 6K resolution video screens for product marketing and community events, and light boxes spanning the length of the ceiling.

Apple Union Square- San Francisco

The Avenue
The central location for hardware, as well as for receiving advice from salespersons and “Creative Pros” – individuals with specialized knowledge of music, creativity, apps and photography.

Genius Grove
A tree-lined area for help and support.

The Forum
Features a large video screen and offers game nights, sessions with experts in creative arts, and community events.

The Boardroom
Let’s aspiring developers and entrepreneurs learn how to use their products to their full potential.

The Plaza
Offers a “park-like” space outside the store featuring free 24/7 Wi-Fi access and will host live concerts on some weekends.

In April 2017, Apple announced that its “Today at Apple” educational sessions, which launched with its Union Square redesign in 2016 and offer more than 60 free hands-on sessions for creative skills, will also be expanded to all of its stores.

Sources- Apple Inc, Wikipedia, Apple Toolbox, Mac World, Cult of Mac

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