Apple is changing. Not that many years ago, Apple and the Mac were mostly synonymous. The Mac was Apple. That changed when the iPod and iTunes Music Store became a phenomenon. On Mac and Windows. Since then, more changes.
Apple’s retail stores gave iPod customers an introduction to the Mac and they liked what they saw. 17 years later the Mac is selling at record numbers, but in between then and now, the Apple Stores grew in number, and iPhone customers eclipsed both Mac and iPod by an order of magnitude. What’s next for Apple Inc? How about getting a Starbucks-like latte at the Apple Store?
The Money Magnet
Apple’s executives were roasted when Steve Jobs announced an Apple retail store. “Failure” cried the critics. “Disaster” howled media analysts. That was then and this is now and no company on planet earth has retail stores as popular or as profitable as the Apple Store, and they’re spreading across the planet. And changing.
Apple retail store honcho Angela Ahrendts, who earned her pedigree with Burberry’s, thinks new Apple stores will make the tech giant the new Starbucks. Huh? What does that mean? Latte and a cinnamon roll? Grande and a danish? Or, a place for customers to come to relax? Maybe it’s the latter because the new generation Apple Store is coming with a Genius grove of plants instead of the Genius Bar of yesteryear.
Support will be among trees, and provide IT services, instruction for creative professionals, classes and meetings.
Does that sound like Starbucks?
Apple’s fastest growing business component is the Services segment, largely ignored in an Apple Store, and Ahrendts wants to change that to make retail more of a community location. Why? Because the company traces roots back to a community of customers, us vs. them, Mac vs. Windows, and now iPhone vs. Android. An Apple Store becomes a location to gather, to receive training and information, to solve problems, but all without a Caffè Mocha or Cinnamon Almondmilk Macchiato.
Mac users who have been around awhile also lament the loss of community, and many note that it’s also gone from the retail stores, now full of eager and preppy youngsters who don’t dare to engage in the trivia fests with longtime Mac owners the way waiters test customer trivia knowledge at the Bubba Gumps restaurants (based on the movie Forrest Gump).
Will Apple change the company’s retail culture enough to attract more customers, and bring back those of us who don’t visit as frequently as years past? Time will tell. But as a long time Mac user, and an Apple customer with one of those new retail stores down the street from where I work in San Francisco, I long for the good old days of customer camaraderie, and the sense of community– before Apple was changed by the riches obtained from iPod, iPhone, and iPad customers.