Why can't anyone else build retail outlets like Apple builds Apple Stores?
Apple Tower Theatre (opens in new tab) is the latest Apple Store to take an existing building and turn it into something designed to sell iPhones and iPads and Macs and Apple Watches. But unlike some companies, Apple didn't gut it and turn it into a shell to fill with blue lights and gaudy point of sale posters. It turned it into something new, yet old. Something that's unmistakenly Tower Theatre, but also unmistakenly Apple.
Now I know that might have sounded alarmingly Jony Ive-esque of me, but I stand by the point. Apple not only has some of the best real estate on the planet, but it has turned them into the best retail experiences, too. Sure, for every stunning Apple Tower Theatre there's an uninspiring Apple Meadowhall (opens in new tab) – but that's shopping malls for you. Whenever Apple is given the chance to do something amazing with a gorgeous building, it does it.
Imagine any other company saying this about a retail outlet.
Then there's Apple Marina Bay Sands, the world's first floating Apple Store. It's a big sphere in the middle of the water and it's stunning to look at.
See what I mean?
Microsoft tried to replicate the Apple Store magic and all it did was make white boxes that looked like Apple Stores. It didn't go out and find the most unique building it could find and then mix in the Apple Store charm to great something better.
Like Apple did when it opened Apple Via del Corso (opens in new tab) last month.
Again, see what I mean? I bet this place has the best iPhone buying experience ever!
But none of this is rocket science, is it?
- Acquire a gorgeous building in or near a shopping area.
- Get rid of the rubbish but keep the character.
- Add the Apple magic including location and time-specific art, structure, everything.
- Put some wooden tables inside.
- Put some colorful M1 iMacs on the wooden tables.
You're welcome, the entire retail industry. I'll take a cut of the profits please and thank you.
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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.
The Apple store experience isn't the definitive store experience by a long shot. Its a mix of décor with finite product range and ample space for people to mingle - not something all retail outlets want or can accommodate with their wider range of products.
Some people appreciate art and design. Others don’t so explain why Apple stores generate the most revenue per square foot in the world by far. All those other stores with all their increased product selections don’t even come close to making the money Apple stores do.
The thing is for the most part apple devices sell themselves. You could put up an apple store in a solid colored space and they would generate lots of $$. Saying the design of the store is the reason people come in is laughable.
Because Apple stores sell products with some of the highest profit margins on the planet. Not begrudging them, that's just reality.
Steve jobs used to talk about the convergence of Art and Technology. This is what he meant.