Apple's retail stores are drawing visitors but not generating sales,
February 21, 2002 10:47 AM   Subscribe

Apple's retail stores are drawing visitors but not generating sales, with a disappointing conversion rate so far. Apple doesn't blame its sales clerks: "Apple stressed Mac expertise — not salesmanship — when it trained them. . . . But now Apple plans to beef up its instruction to teach clerks how to close the deal." But John Manzione isn't so sure: when visiting a local Apple Store, he found that "[w]ho I was dealing with here were Mac enthusiasts who cared more about being around the product than selling it."
posted by mcwetboy (42 comments total)

 
prices are key. ...and the store I was in felt like a hands on museum, or a place to just look. Most stores have some kind of feel for "buy me, spend money". But the stark design didn't grab me - design wise it did, but not in terms of a "shopping experience". Thats nice for Prada stores, but that's not apple's market. I guess the point about the clerks is a good one. Maybe more training on closing the deal is a good idea.
posted by tomplus2 at 10:57 AM on February 21, 2002


I wouldn't have a problem buing a Mac if they weren't so damned expensive to begin with.
posted by manero at 11:07 AM on February 21, 2002


I would have ordered my iMac from the Apple Store (I tried) but they didn't offer an education discount. Wouldn't it seem logical that they would, considering, on the website all I was asked was which school I attended?
posted by Latitude11 at 11:07 AM on February 21, 2002


I would have ordered my iMac from the Apple Store (I tried) but they didn't offer an education discount. Wouldn't it seem logical that they would, considering, on the website all I was asked was which school I attended?
posted by Latitude11 at 11:07 AM on February 21, 2002


My local MacFanatic dragged me to the opening of the Apple store out in Burbank, and I knew that the insanely long line was basically preaching to the converted.
posted by owillis at 11:08 AM on February 21, 2002


Walking into an Apple Store is like being inserted into a scene from 2001:A Space Odyssey. I won't be in the market for a new computer until next year, but I sure do like to browse there.
posted by briank at 11:12 AM on February 21, 2002


True tales of a Mac Enthusiast

Between my local Comp USA and the Mac Store in Dallas, I've talked at least six or seven people into buying a Mac right there on the spot.

Man, I should get a commission or something.
posted by ColdChef at 11:13 AM on February 21, 2002


I never understood the Apple Store concept. Apple's current user base has long experience buying via catalog or web sales. It's more convenient, and there isn't a price difference.

So, who is going to go into an Apple store to buy something? They'll get some converts out of the I'll get my grandmother an iMac or the gee, maybe I don't need a PC for home if I can open all my office applications and the Macs sure are nice to use crowd. Still, those people have to be convinced of that when they go into the local Best Buy or CompUSA. I imagine most people going to an Apple store have already made the decision to buy Mac, so what's the point? The apple sales person section of CompUSA always made more sense although there was a weird separation of staff in that concept that always felt awkward and forced.
posted by willnot at 11:18 AM on February 21, 2002


I would have ordered my iMac from the Apple Store (I tried) but they didn't offer an education discount

When I check, it shows a $50 discount for all three available configurations. It's a ridiculously small discount, but it is a discount.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:24 AM on February 21, 2002


Why cant they sell t-shirt and apple doodahs? thats what I want, I'd buy them out of house and home.
posted by Dome-O-Rama at 11:30 AM on February 21, 2002


willnot - we buy form catalogs becasue we have to, most peopel who wants amc dont even knwo where to get one and if they show up to look at one, most of the time they get talked out of one. it's nice to have a place to go and not be looking at a half of shelf of macs that are falling aapart, and some software and not wonder if it's compatible. I about wet myself buying the sims add on pack, I didn't even have to look at the box. whee!
posted by Dome-O-Rama at 11:34 AM on February 21, 2002


willnot - we buy form catalogs becasue we have to, most peopel who wants a mac dont even knwo where to get one and if they show up to look at one, most of the time they get talked out of one. it's nice to have a place to go and not be looking at a half of shelf of macs that are falling aapart, and some software and not wonder if it's compatible. I about wet myself buying the sims add on pack, I didn't even have to look at the box. whee!
posted by Dome-O-Rama at 11:34 AM on February 21, 2002


Note that the links deal with the sales culture at retail stores — who's selling, not who's buying. I thought it was interesting that sales clerks were, depending on the link, either not good at or utterly uninterested in selling things.

An interesting passage from Manzione's piece: "Who I was dealing with here were Mac enthusiasts who cared more about being around the product then selling it. . . . whenever I showed up all I heard was long conversations between a Mac Genius and another Mac enthusiast. Novice users could never get a question in to the Mac Genius because he was too busy talking to another Mac user about the next OS X release or some other subject. In other words, these 60K jobs were given out to people who had the opportunity to stand around all day and talk about their favorite subject . . . Macs."

willnot sez: I never understood the Apple Store concept. Apple's current user base . . .

I believe the stores' purpose was to expand the user base, not to serve an existing user base that is arguably already well served. I don't think the stores' purpose was ever to serve as a hangout for Macheads, though.
posted by mcwetboy at 11:36 AM on February 21, 2002


Places like Best Buy, CompUSA and Circuit City really disrespected the Macs, leaving the displays shoddy and never really stocking peripherals or software, which perpetuated the myth that there's no software for Macs.

they need to show how ridiculously easy it is to buy an imac and a sony dv camera, link it up with firewire, edit it with imovie, and then burn a dvd.
posted by panopticon at 11:39 AM on February 21, 2002


Another confession: I wipe the hard drives of PCs in Office Depots if they don't password protect them. Because I love the Macintosh. Does that make any sense?
posted by ColdChef at 11:55 AM on February 21, 2002


After more than 10 years as a Consumer Electronics sales trainer, I have found that real salespeople with a tiny bit of love for a product can move way more products than inexperienced salespeople who totally love a product.

The main difference is in Closing your customer, which real salespeople know is part of the process, whereas clerks haven't the foggiest - or are too scared to attempt.

I think there is definately a market and a need for an Apple store. I agree with panopticon that most of the other big computer stores have no love for the Mac - or true knowledge. You'll still hear the majority of salespeople say the same old crap that "Macs are good for graphics, PCs are good for Business." But the biggest thing is if people don't see shelves lined with software they get skittish even though they'll probably only buy 2-3 titles a year outside of the Office package.

Like other businesses, Apple needs to find a way to compensate good salespeople who know how to not only pitch their very cool, very trendy, very powerful products - but complete the pitch with a purchase. If this means higher commissions or deep discounts on products, they're going to have to do something extraordinary to keep their closers on the floor. Because if people aren't going to buy Macs at an Apple Store in droves, they certainly wont be buying them anywhere else in big numbers.
posted by tsarfan at 11:59 AM on February 21, 2002


no it doesn't make sense, chef. it just means your childish.
posted by Qambient at 12:04 PM on February 21, 2002


Well, if they were on commission, even as Mac fanatics (as I am in my job), they'd learn pretty fast!
posted by jmcnally at 12:17 PM on February 21, 2002


Mcwetboy,

No Mac loyalist am I (much the contrary in fact), but I found your negative summary/spin of a damn near effusive article downright jarring. To wit
posted by Sinner at 12:25 PM on February 21, 2002


no it doesn't make sense, chef. it just means your [sic] childish.

Well, that's pretty much a given. I'll go you one even more childish, though.

When they introduced these crappy all-in-one iMac knockoffs, a friend and I went to the local PC store to check them out. The design was terrible, so we went to the screen saver, changed it to a scrolling marquis that read "Don't buy me. You should buy a real iMac. I'm just a lousy knockoff." Then, we made the computer next to it say, "Wow. Look at that iMac knockoff next to me. What a piece of junk. You should buy a real Mac." We password protected them and giggled to ourselves.

Childish? Yes. But funny. To me.

Here's the punchline, though. I was telling some co-workers about it (this was weeks later) and this guy says, "Holy shit. I was at that store this weekend. They haven't changed the message. It still says that." Now, that's what I call funny.
posted by ColdChef at 12:39 PM on February 21, 2002


I think it's a little too soon to call their stores a failure. Moreover, if the "Showroom" leads to sales through Mac Warehouse, Apple still wins.

They should add a cafe to their stores.


When does the one in SOHO open (I believe in the ex-Restoration Hardware store)?
posted by ParisParamus at 12:47 PM on February 21, 2002


They should add a cafe to their stores.
Don't they already come with bars?
posted by Marquis at 12:55 PM on February 21, 2002


Places like Best Buy, CompUSA and Circuit City really disrespected the Macs, leaving the displays shoddy and never really stocking peripherals or software, which perpetuated the myth that there's no software for Macs.

No doubt that, but my point is that for the should I get a PC or Mac inexperienced computer buyer I think that is where most of the decision is going to be made.

Apple seems to have looked at their inability to make any in roads there and decided they could achieve the sale entirely from their TV ads. Otherwise, there is no way to get somebody to make the decision to go to the Apple store as a special destination. The TV ads have probably helped Apple a lot, and computers have become more of a commodity, but I just don't think that they are enough of a commodity to sell entirely via TV.

So they might be able to improve the buying experience for some buyers who were already 90% sold, but they do it at the expense of burning bridges with their retail partners. Maybe they really had no choice. Maybe there was just no way to make in roads in the retail chains, but ultimately, it seems to me like a self-defeating strategy.

I'm a total Mac snob by the way. I have 4 Macs that I use as my primary computers at home and at work, so this isn't a knee-jerk Apple Sucks kind of thing if that's how it comes across.
posted by willnot at 1:01 PM on February 21, 2002


I myself have been in them and in awe of the place. I did however feel that it was more of a place for mac people to chat than people to be sold on a mac. But here is the best part, I looked at apple's job description for their Store Manager (link found here) and I like the Key features list:
Would ride the space shuttle if only it wasn't so slow.
Always led during Follow the Leader

Those two just cracked me up.
posted by willsey at 1:03 PM on February 21, 2002


ColdChef, it's funny to me too. Call me silly, if you must, but that's hilarious.
posted by cowboy at 1:08 PM on February 21, 2002


Sinner sez: I found your negative summary/spin of a damn near effusive article downright jarring.

It's true that Haddad's article is more positive than I made it out to be. Chalk that up to the need to be brief on the front page, as well as the fact that I was doing a compare/contrast with Manzione's piece.

Haddad is invariably positive on all things Apple and his column alone wouldn't warrant, in my view, a link here, but the combination with Manzione, who writes in response to that column, was too interesting to pass up.

Good on you for pulling that stuff from the article, though: it's worth pointing out that the situation is far from dire in Apple's retail stores, they're not doing that badly, and it wouldn't take much to make them an obscenely smashing success. If the only problem is the sales culture (and that's an interesting problem in the context of the Mac subculture/cult/hive mind), then they're in pretty good shape.
posted by mcwetboy at 1:13 PM on February 21, 2002


Ultimately, I think one problem with the Mac stores is that they're too minimalist; too modern, which I love, but a large segement of the Thomas Kinkade-appreciating public finds threatening. But that's just life.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:30 PM on February 21, 2002


If you want to purchase at a discount, you have to go to the Education Store online instead of the regular store. Discounts are small on low-margin products, and they vary depending on your educational credentials (teacher vs. student, K-12 vs. Higher Ed) in some cases, but there are discounts and special bundles.
posted by mdeatherage at 1:37 PM on February 21, 2002


> Thomas Kinkade-appreciating public

Why should Kinkade fans have any problem with fruit-colored see-thru plastic? I would have thought it was a match made in heaven.
posted by jfuller at 2:39 PM on February 21, 2002


jfuller: so wrong. Just as you will never understand TK, you will never understand why most people are blind to the real superiority of Apple. Although, maybe Apple should come out with a Kinkade-painted iMac

(that thought, however hilarious, is scary).
posted by ParisParamus at 2:57 PM on February 21, 2002


> come out with a Kinkade-painted iMac

Campaign slogan: here's one in your i.

And for the artist: Thomas Kinkade, the Painter of Lamp.

(Note to the guys from Cupertino: you may feel free to make use of any ideas PP and I have presented. We will cheerfully waive our fee and be content with the glory.)
posted by jfuller at 4:23 PM on February 21, 2002


I concur, jfuller. Especially since the idea isn't protectable.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:31 PM on February 21, 2002


In addition to Sinner's reality check, CNet is running a story today about high iMac sales figures.
posted by aaron at 4:34 PM on February 21, 2002


Apple will introduce imacs in color, no?
posted by ParisParamus at 4:36 PM on February 21, 2002


I went to an Apple store for the sole reasons of 1) checking out the iPod in person and 2) purchasing Apple tee shirts, posters, and other stuff like that. There were five other people checking out the ONE iPod they had on display, and they had none of the Apple teeshirts/posters/hats/etc that I was looking for. What gives?
posted by rio at 4:42 PM on February 21, 2002


coldchef - That doesn't make you childish, it makes you a vandal, and likely a felon as the time needed to repair the damage you caused could easily add up to enough to cross the dollar threshold.
posted by NortonDC at 6:53 PM on February 21, 2002


NortonDC, your one of the worst kind of people in this world, a piss ass self rightous whiner, look up the meaning of the word felon for me idiot boy.

at least coldchef did something, what do you offer the world other than a chastising and lame mommydearist remark? I laughed at the screen saver trick its worth a dollar

oh yeah, macs...

I dig my 600mhz ibook, but it was a pain to buy and even more of a pain to find answers to questions through my dealer... the thinkpad I was considering looks nicer when I cant get office X to run without random disapearing acts with 640mb of ram.... anyone know of a decent mac community for new mac owners, who are longtime knollegeable computer users?

and norton, die soon before you breed
posted by vincentmeanie at 7:36 PM on February 21, 2002


vincentmeanie - I think you meant to write "you're one of the worst kind of people in this world." Don't give up hope yet; I can feel an actual sentence inside you, struggling to break free!

Vandalism: Another confession: I wipe the hard drives of PCs in Office Depots if they don't password protect them. Because I love the Macintosh.
posted by NortonDC at 7:52 PM on February 21, 2002


look up the meaning of the word felon for me idiot boy

Depending on the dollar amount of the damage, vandalism can indeed be a felony in some jurisdictions. Of course, password-protecting the screen savers and wiping hard disks has a dollar value of whatever it would cost to have a drone stick the CD in the drive and re-install Windows, i.e., a few bucks at most, so it's probably just a misdemeanor.
posted by kindall at 8:32 PM on February 21, 2002


I'd invite vincentmeanie to some of the Mac communities I frequent, but I won't for several reasons:

1) As much as I agree with the message he's trying to send, the method he chose to send it is indeed illegal and, IMO, just plain wrong. Hate Windows all you want, but vandalism isn't the answer.
2) Such activity, like it or not, does indicate a tendency towards juvenility. The last thing the professional Mac community with "longtime knollegeable users" needs is someone with a tendency to over-react and use rather sharp, unfriendly phraseology as indicated by his posts.

Normally, I'm all for inviting fellow Mac users into the Mac communities I frequent. But no community is helped by vitriolic and ill-phrased posts riddled with abusive language, by persons of questionable integrity.

Being welcome in a community often also means making yourself welcome. Think about it just a bit. - Damien Barrett.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 9:01 PM on February 21, 2002


Ah...I see that it was coldchef who was the vandal, upon re-reading the posts. However, I still stand by my commentary. Gleefully defending vandalism and illegal activities certainly doesn't cast a positive light. No mis-association intended. My post isn't an indictment of anyone, just an opinion from someone who spends A LOT of time in the Mac communities, constantly countering the ridiculously juvenile antics of many well-meaning but generally clueless "Mac zealots."
posted by mrbarrett.com at 9:08 PM on February 21, 2002


Depending on the dollar amount of the damage, vandalism can indeed be a felony in some jurisdictions. Of course, password-protecting the screen savers and wiping hard disks has a dollar value of whatever it would cost to have a drone stick the CD in the drive and re-install Windows, i.e., a few bucks at most, so it's probably just a misdemeanor.

I'm a bad, bad man.
posted by ColdChef at 4:51 AM on February 22, 2002


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