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IMG Takes A Closer Look At Apple's Retail Stores
September 30, 2003 | Jean-Luc Dinsdale
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There has been a lot of coverage on several websites over the past year about the opening of Apple’s retail stores. Pages have been written about the line-ups, the crowds, the layouts, the products, and scores of pictures of happy Mac fans ogling at all the Apple gear laid along rows of tables, in a soft, shiny, silver and white environment, with scores of young, helpful, black t-shirt clad staff lovingly showing off the gear and personalising the whole shopping experience.

To foreigners like myself, and to anyone in the States who has not had a chance to visit, the press surrounding the opening of these retail outlets makes a trip to the Apple Store out to be an exciting, surreal, quasi-religious experience, similar to a Mac lover’s first MacWorld Expo visit. Forums are filled with posts from visitors with comments like “cool”, “awesome”, and “it’s about time”. Comments from the great unwashed usually range along the lines of “When are we getting one in (insert geographical location here)?”

Thanks to a yoga class my wife was taking, I had a chance this weekend to hang out in Seattle. As it happened, a new Apple Store was opening in the University Village mall, one block away from the hotel where we were staying, so I took the opportunity to check out the grand opening and see what all the hubbub was about.

Getting there was half the fun.
Although I drove like a bat out of hell as soon as I left work, I just couldn’t get to the store in time for the grand opening. An extremely strict border crossing guard, highway construction outside Bellingham, and an overzealous gaggle of Huskies supporters (including one hundred brass band members, thirty cheerleaders and several hundred fans) who swarmed the road in the middle of the U of W campus, were all in cahoots to ensure that I didn’t make it to the new store before the doors closed. Damn those oppressive PC users!

As I approached the mall, Apple’s presence could be felt. Driving over 45th Ave, one of the three major roads leading to the mall, Apple’s trademark white logo could be seen from several blocks away, lit up in the night sky, seemingly towering over the mall’s parking lot.

The store’s retail location is pretty impressive. Smack dab in the middle of the exterior mall, the Apple Store sits at the epicentre of University Village, in plain view of almost any parking stall and from the entrances of a large number of the retail outlets in the mall. The storefront is comprised of a wide glass wall, topped with an equally large fascia comprised of panels painted with Apple’s legendary brushed steel look. In the centre of the panels lies a simple, elegant, white Apple logo that lights up when it gets dark. Showcased in the store’s elegant storefront are Apple’s feature products – the dual G5 desktop and the three sizes of PowerBooks.

My first reaction to the store was that Apple must have spent a fortune to get their hands on this space. The large store is in a prime location, located in the focal point of the area. The distinguished brushed metal and glass look give the store a unique elegance, especially contrasted with the red brick-covered pub and dark grey stucco of the bath store on either sides of its doors. I’ve seen a lot of stores selling Apple gear, but none have ever been quite as eye catching as this one.

Arriving ten minutes after closing time, I didn’t get a chance to get into the store on opening night. While a number of Apple staff were outside talking, the rest of the staff were inside the store, closing up shop and seeing the last few stragglers through their purchases and out the door. Despite several attempts, and a little bit of pleading, I couldn’t score an interview without reviewing my credentials, and since I hadn’t brought any business cards, the night was a bust. I’d have to try again the next day.

Although I hadn’t seen it for myself, reports from that night were positive. According to a few members of the public who had been there that night, people had started lining up outside the retail outlet at about 2:30 Friday afternoon. Although I was unable to get any straight figures, it was estimated that several thousand people had walked through the store the night before, as, according to Nicole, one of the staff I got a chance to talk to, the place was chock-full of people, and the 1,000 free Apple shirts that were given away to customers disappeared very quickly.



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