We entered to the song “Love Shack.” And while Apple’s newest store is no shack, it is definitely full of love. Both as an Apple fan and a contributing editor for MyMac.com, today was a new milestone for me. I entered a new era, and although this is not the first of Apple’s new store openings, it is the first Apple store that I have ever been to, and I can honestly say that I am a better and more experienced Mac enthusiast because of it. Apple’s stores are defining a new era. Apple is finally doing what they need to do…not just to reach their faithful users, but to get in touch with the other 95% of the market. Apple is truly reaching out to “the rest of us,” and today’s commencement ceremony was nothing but spectacular.
The grand opening of Apple’s Woodfield mall store could easily be compared to this year’s past Macworld keynote. There was a line full of Apple’s most die-hard fans, and the first people in that line arrived at exorbitantly early hours of the morning. There was clapping and cheering as the doors opened, and the security officers clearly thought we were completely nuts. It had Macworld keynote written all over it, yet it was not a keynote. It was the grand opening of Apple’s first Chicagoland store, and it was exciting–ten fold more exiting than this past Macworld. You can probably tell by now that I had a great time, and here is why.
The glow of the three Apple logo’s on the outside of the Woodfield store was great. However, I am talking about a different type of glow. I am talking about the glow that encompasses people’s faces during any Apple event. That glow was clearly evident today, from the time I arrived at 5:50 AM to the time I left just after 11:00 AM. I had it, Dawn had it, and so did everyone else in line. It was definitely an amazing site, and unlike a typical Macworld line, where herding cattle and gaining position is the name of the game, this line was calm, collective, and clearly at ease. Everyone was excited about this store, and we all showed it.
The glow was no more evident than on the face of Julie Pierce. Julie is an avid Macintosh enthusiast who went all out for her favorite company. We asked Julie why she had the fresh tattoo done, and you can imagine our shock when she responded “…well, actually I work here. We didn’t have to be here until eight o’clock but I wanted to get here early to experience the line and the excitement.” She WANTED to wait in line! That’s dedication! Moreover, just look at her face. That is the dyed-in-the-wool glow I am talking about. Way to go, Julie!
Of course, the store was the main attraction today, and it was a huge star. An Apple store is significantly different than any other store out there today, be it grocery, clothing, or computer. It is neatly arranged and defined, in accordance with Apple’s product matrix. And unlike Gateway’s country western feel, Apple’s stores are clean cut, well organized, and staffed with the most knowledgeable and friendly Macintosh users available.
On the left side of Apple’s store is the Pro section, with PowerBook G4’s and Power Mac G4’s adorning the aisles. On the right side, the Home section, where iMac’s and iBook’s are the leading lights. What really strikes me about the arrangement, though, is how each machine shows a different Apple strength. In contrast to a CompUSA store, where you are presented with a trash can of littered Macs, mice, and peripherals, Apple’s retail store gives each machine a purpose, and gives each customer a positive impression of the product they have used. While some machines show Apple’s dazzling Airport wireless networking, others demonstrate Apple’s software assets. From iTunes to iDVD, everything is represented cleanly and crisply.
My only complaint is the peripherals section. Perhaps Apple could stock more third party products, especially ink cartridges for the most popular printers on the market, not just the devices they sell in the store. What’s more, it would be a good idea for Apple to stock previous PowerBook parts. I would have walked out of the store with a spare battery for my Pismo today if Apple had them in stock. Though they were courteous and kindly offered to order one online for me, I can do that anytime. A better stock would have signified more profit for Apple today.
A huge part of any customer’s store experience is the store’s staff. Unlike many retail stores’ rude and complacent sales staff, Apple’s employees are fun loving and each and every one has that Apple glow on his or her face. It is clear from the moment you walk in the store that every one of them enjoys working for Apple, and why not! However, it is important to note that each one is very knowledgeable, especially those at the Mac Genius bar. My favorite part of the store is the kid’s section, and Marge, who was in charge of that section today, was my favorite employee. She loves working with kids and was more than happy to take time away from her busy schedule to talk with me for a few minutes about the section. According to Marge, the software is arranged by vendor, and the most popular titles are demonstrated on the five iMac’s in the section. When I asked Marge what she liked best about her job she responded, “It’s Apple.” This sentiment was echoed by many of the Apple employees I spoke with today, and it definitely leaves a great first impression on the customer.
The Rest of Us
A good first impression is crucial in securing any potential customer, though I get the feeling that the majority of today’s crowd was loyal Mac users–coming and going in droves. Many Macintosh faithful filled the halls of Woodfield mall today, but none was more refreshing to see than twelve year old Zander (short for Alexander) Goss of Barrington, IL, who made the ten minute drive with his friend Richard Roggeveen. Though I have spoken with many young Macintosh users over my three Macworld’s and similar Mac-related events, I have never spoken with such an intelligent and enthusiastic young man. “I own a Mac SE and 512K, and I bought a brand new iBook on the day they were announced. Every one [of my friends] uses a PC, but I am a Mac user, and proud of it.” Zander is clearly the future of the Macintosh faithful, and it is users like him that Apple has truly affected. Apple has left an impression–and a lasting one on people like Zander, who enjoyed his first taste of Apple mania at Macworld Boston in 1992, when he was only three years old. When I asked Zander if he remembered anything about it he said “no, but everyone has to start somewhere.”
I met many more people like Zander today that Apple has left an impression on, and every single one of them had that central glow. Apple has touched our lives, and now they are touching others through their retail stores. This is a huge advancement, and an entry into a new era. As one consumer put it today, “I love Apple’s new store. It’s great–great for Apple, great for us.”