Apple Goes Retail: Good Idea?
May 8, 2001 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Apple Goes Retail: Good Idea? As this NYTimes Article describes, Apple is planning to open about a dozen stores nationwide. Because Apple specializes in aesthetically pleasing hardware, I actually think this is a good idea for them.
posted by ParisParamus (33 comments total)
I can see Apple creating an attractive retail space a lot easier than Comp USA (are they still in business?) or Gateway. Apple hardware usually gets short shrift in conventional computer stores.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:50 PM on May 8, 2001

Having bought a Titanium PowerBook in a CompUSA store recently, I can only say: it's about time. Outside of the Bay Area, I don't think I've ever been in a retail store where I felt like the floor help had any real clue what a Macintosh was, or why it was different, or why some people might actually be better off with one rather than a Wintel PC... Even those who loathe Macs on religious grounds cannot deny that Apple is among the most brilliant of marketing enterprises; it's hard to imagine an Apple Store that's anything short of perfectly designed.
posted by m.polo at 2:05 PM on May 8, 2001

people still buy Apples? ;)
posted by ethelfarts at 2:06 PM on May 8, 2001

This would be a great idea if the stores also sold Mac compatible periphials, but you know they won't. I am a dedicated Mac user-have been for years. But this snobby elitism is going to get them nowhere. Fine, they make a pretty product, but I'd rather have full PC compatibility than a floating dock any day.
posted by ColdChef at 2:10 PM on May 8, 2001

Um, as I don't actually own a Mac I'm not too sure of this, but don't Apple already do this in the UK? There are at least 2 Mac only stores in the city I live in (Edinburgh) and they've been around for some time. Or are they possibly just independents that only stock Apple stuff?
posted by MUD at 2:18 PM on May 8, 2001

ColdChef, I'm not sure you can assume that. I think Apple is motivated by, as m.polo suggests, the scary, intelligence-free reality of today's appliance/computer/stereo stores. Since Apple doesn't make may peripherals, it's difficult to see how a compelling retail space could be created without selling non-Apple-manufactured hardware and software.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:20 PM on May 8, 2001

probably authorized resellers MUD....

a friend of mine owns such a store, he is waiting to see what apple will do, since they are notorious for backstabbing their most loyal supporters....who still love them anyways. Emotional attachments to an OS or hardware are silly in my book. [i use mac and pc] Wouldn't be shocked at all if they screwed all of their resellers--which, BTW they have already done by putting Macs into other retailers after they said they wouldn't.
posted by th3ph17 at 2:24 PM on May 8, 2001

the choice of words "aesthetically pleasing" is an interesting juxtaposition with the later comment on Apple's marketing expertise.

are the stores doomed to failure because apple has traditionally confused design, creativity & widgets for marketing rather than communicating the (user driven) benefits of a product & delivering it to users?

or, will the stores actually deliver said product to the huddled masses yearning to breathe free?

either way, the 1984 mac ad is my all time favorite.
posted by elsar at 2:28 PM on May 8, 2001

Oh, I want to agree with you. I don't see how they could survive in retail if they didn't sell non-apple printers, scanners, whatnot. But then I keep going back to a vision of Steve Jobs turning his nose up at crappy, poorly designed add-ons and deciding they have no place next to his beautiful machines. I have no doubt that he would cut off his nose to spite his own face. And it's this snobbery (valid or not) that makes Mac people look silly.
posted by ColdChef at 2:30 PM on May 8, 2001

wow. that ad still gives me the chills
posted by elsar at 2:35 PM on May 8, 2001

While it's true that Apple has made some stupid mistakes, give them a break on this one. They have all sorts of 3rd party add-ons on their website, and I'd bet a large amount of money that the store will have a huge selection of periphials.

Apple doesn't push its own printers, scanners, or anything else these days. They're pretty much focused on the computer/OS spaces.

I think most people are stuck in a mid-90s view of Apple, but a lot has changed. (and a lot has stayed the same, of course)
posted by jragon at 2:56 PM on May 8, 2001

Can they sell me a vintage Apple IIgs for a G4 price? I bet they can.
posted by wantwit at 2:58 PM on May 8, 2001

That was a good ad. It was like 'Baywatch,' but nerdy.
posted by sonofsamiam at 3:04 PM on May 8, 2001

Anyone who's ever tried to buy a Mac at one of the much-touted "Store Within A Stores" will confirm that this is a great idea. Apple needs a retail outlet with employees that understand Macs and won't try to sell customers on other brands (à la CompUSA).
posted by jed at 3:15 PM on May 8, 2001

While I wholeheartedly agree that the knuckleheads at CompUSA have done great injustice to the Apple products they "sell," one has to wonder if Apple can sell enough Macs in these stores to pay for the steep Tyson's Corner or $4000 a day SOHO rent. This action speaks more about touchy-feely brand building than direct-model margins.
posted by machaus at 5:03 PM on May 8, 2001

Will be interesting to see how they do. After about 14 years in business, one of the Bay Area's only Mac-only resellers, ComputerWare, went out of business a few months ago. Maybe they smelled this coming, but it doesn't bode well if they had trouble selling Macs in Silicon Valley. But I'm sure these Stores will have some marketing muscle behind them.
posted by robbie01 at 6:21 PM on May 8, 2001

I'm amazed that nobody has noted that Millard Drexler (President and CEO, Gap Inc.) is on the Apple Board of Directors. The Gap is a marketing machine, from their stores to their TV ads. Is there any reason to believe that Apple won't be using Drexler's experience to make this a hip, fun computer buying experience?
posted by FullFrontalNerdity at 6:37 PM on May 8, 2001

sell enough Macs in these stores to pay for the steep Tyson's Corner or $4000 a day SOHO rent

Hey, they're opening a store in Pittsburgh, which is hardly a high-class city. I don't think they'll be charged tony boutique prices here. ;)

(side note: woohoo! If I buy that MP G4 I've been slavering over for the past N months, I know where I'm getting it...)
posted by darukaru at 6:51 PM on May 8, 2001

As they're only opening a few stores (have heard that the flagship will be here in Chicago, but I've no evidence to back that up), I believe they'll do just fine. While they might not sell a great many more computers, I don't think they'll really lose money on this.

I believe it will be a bit like the Sony store here in Chicago (I assume there are others?) - beautuifully designed with lots of neat toys to play with. Personally, I'm excited.

Especially since any serious buyer really has to buy directly from Apple - the standard machines at Comp USA are always pretty lame. Far better to "build" your machine through the website. It'd be nice to avoid this, and simply go to the local Apple store.
posted by aladfar at 7:51 PM on May 8, 2001

I wonder if they'll be more successful with the idea than Gateway was.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:23 PM on May 8, 2001

I think it's a great idea. We're lucky in Montreal to have a two-store "chain" of Mac-only stores that are large enough to have stock and good staff, and it's a real pleasure to shop there. If they can do that WITH high style, it's a no-brainer.
posted by mikel at 8:28 PM on May 8, 2001

all too often, Apple products are tucked away in the corners of the stores. They make good products, but they don't always have the best product placement. and for certain products, the only way to find them is online. having their own store would be very helpful, i think it's a great idea.
posted by igloo at 8:33 PM on May 8, 2001

MUD's right: there have been authorised "Apple Stores" in the UK for a long time, mainly because it's nigh-on impossible to buy them elsewhere on the high street. And yes, the decor's as... individual... as the machines'.
posted by holgate at 8:53 PM on May 8, 2001

I wonder if they'll be more successful with the idea than Gateway was.

Steven, the article touches on this point. Analysts are encouraged by the more targetted approach that Apple appears to be taking.

Then there's the fact that Apple isn't just one more PC vendor, so they're in a slightly different situation in terms of target audience.
posted by jragon at 10:06 PM on May 8, 2001

Wow. Seeing that ad again makes me want to rush right out and buy a 128K Mac.
posted by dhartung at 10:40 PM on May 8, 2001

Mac vendor plug: Small Dog Electronics, a mom and pop Apple shop on the web, has never steered me wrong. A plus is all of the high-quality refurb equipment at vastly reduced prices. The small dogs have saved me from inCOMPetentUSA many times.

(That said, I'd walk a million miles for one of those smiles Apple stores.)
posted by bradlands at 11:13 PM on May 8, 2001

Especially since any serious buyer really has to buy directly from Apple - the standard machines at Comp USA are always pretty lame.

That is, if you feel the need to buy in person, which I don't. I can by from via mail-order catalog or on the net, and have the purchase delivered in one day from their fulfillment center in Ohio. As long as the merchant is outside of NYC, I save on the 8.25 New York City/State sales tax, and even with shipping costs (which are surprisingly minimal), still come out cheaper than CompUSA, J&R or the Apple Store.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:00 AM on May 9, 2001

That is, if you feel the need to buy in person, which I don't. I can by from via mail-order catalog or on the net, and have the purchase delivered in one day from their fulfillment center in Ohio.

Ohio gets a lot of mention on Metafilter!

I suspect Apple's aim is not to increase sales directly through such stores as much as brand awareness. Here in NYC, you can walk around and see Wintel stuff all over the place, but you have to make a special trip to find an Apple stand. The stores will likely increase mail order sales as much as anything else.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:28 AM on May 9, 2001

I wonder if they'll be more successful with the idea than Gateway was.

The big difference, Stephen, is that it appears Apple intends to keep inventory onsite - until I went to a "Gateway Country" store to help my mom purchase a PC, I didn't realize they were nothing more than a shopping strip entry to their website. You can't walk out with a computer in a box there, you still go through their normal delivery mechanisms (UPS). I used the opportunity to show my mom some of her options in terms of monitor sizes and printer quality and the like, but we were very definitely not the only customers who left without buying anything solely because we couldn't put our purchase in the trunk when we left.
posted by m.polo at 7:48 AM on May 9, 2001

Now, c'mon, I just KNOW I closed that "i" tag...
posted by m.polo at 7:49 AM on May 9, 2001

One rumor I remember seeing somewhere on the web (probably at MOSR, and they're not particularly well known for accuracy) is that most of the Apple stores will have little merch in stock and a large part of it will be directing customers to BTO from the Apple store on the web. Is this a smart move, not letting everyone walk out with what they want? (well, maybe in NYC it will be, since I wouldn't really want to carry a g4 tower and monitor on the subway...) Anyway, the Soho one won't be opening quite as early as the Tyson's Corner one, since I happened to walk by the Restoration Hardware that will become the Apple store, and they were having a farwell sale this weekend.
posted by andrewraff at 7:49 AM on May 9, 2001

it appears Apple intends to keep inventory onsite

I don't think being able to walk out with big heavy boxes of hardware--in NYC, where many people aren't shopping with cars, or in a mall, where other stores are being shopped--is that big a marketing point. Even if the stores do have stock, A lot of people will opt for having hardware shipped to their homes.

On second thought, psychologically, it's good to have actual stock in the store, but mostly psychologically, for "substance: it would almost suffice to have a loop of fake customers walking out with boxes of G4s and iMacs (or positioned strategically throughout the mall).
posted by ParisParamus at 8:20 AM on May 9, 2001

Another plug for Small Dog. I've bought lots of things there and I recently bought a dual-processor G4/533 from them too. It was actually built-to-order and drop-shipped by Apple, but it saved me paying the sales tax I would have paid ordering it from the Apple Web site.
posted by kindall at 11:19 AM on May 9, 2001

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