With today marking the 10th anniversary of Apple’s first brick-and-mortar store, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at how we covered the company’s first location in the Garden State, which opened in Tice’s Corner in 2001. Back then, of course, there were only five retail outlets, and the company had an ambitious goal of opening a total of 25 by the year’s end (there are over 300 now), and store openings were a big deal, not just among the Mac press, but the mainstream news outlets as well. Apple’s newest product, the “iPod,” wouldn’t even be available for another week after the opening.
RandomMaccess was given exclusive access to the store the night before the special pre-opening “press event.” Here’s how we reported our first look at Apple’s foray into retailing.
RandomMaccess goes behind the scenes at the newest Apple store
Friday, November 2, 2001
RandomMaccess got a sneak preview of Apple’s newest retail store in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey — a day before the store’s November 3rd Grand Opening. We found a store that crosses the GAP’s retail sense for classic simplicity, Apple’s trademark design brilliance, and employees with that legendary Mac evangelist spirit. After seeing them in action, Apple’s marketshare goal of “five down and 95 to go” seems downright inevitable.
The store, in the new Tice’s Corner shopping center, is Apple’s first in the Garden State. “We’ve got a large number of Mac users in this area,” said Linda Turner, Apple’s regional director. “There are a lot of technically sophisticated customers here,” she said, making the location attractive for Apple.
The Tice’s Corner store’s layout follows Apple’s other outlets. “It’s clean and beautiful, with really strong graphics,” said Turner. She said the visual merchandising and store signage are produced by Apple in house. Product signage is full color, encased in clear Lucite sign holders or heavy, crystal-like enclosures.
Like other Apple stores, the Tice’s Corner store is segmented by products and users, with the first 25% showcasing Apple computers – iMacs and iBooks for home user to the right; Power Macs and PowerBooks for professional users to the left.
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The checkout counter separates the hardware section from the rest of the store. The cash registers are iMacs running a Point-of-Sale system developed by Apple. To the right, MP3 players and PDAs are displayed. The iPod, which will not be available until November 10th, is on display in the front window, but not in the accessories section.
The kids’ section is next, with child-sized counters and spherical seats. iMacs running five software titles are flanked by shelves full of games and educational programs. Turner did not know how many of those were children’s programs, but says the store stocks over 600 software titles in total. Behind the kids’ section is the “Genius Bar,” where customers can get technical assistance from Mac experts. A hotline to Apple headquarters in Cupertino sits on a counter behind the bar for questions that stump the Geniuses.
Centered at the back of the store is the Theater. Product demos and other presentations take place every hour, said Turner. Current presentations feature iPod, iTunes and iMovie. Mac Genius Jeff Penn quickly pulled an iPod commercial off the Internet and ran it on the Theater’s large screen.
To the left of the Theater is the “etc.” section, which features peripherals like scanners, printers and media like CD-RWs and blank DVDs.
The photo and vieo sections are next. Turner says customers are encouraged to use the cameras on diplay to take and edit photos and videos, send them by email, print them out in the store or burn their own CDs.
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All the computers in the store are linked to the Internet via an AirPort network. Customers can browse the web and check their email. “Everthing is set up to use,” Turner said. Customers are free to try the computers as long as they like, she said, adding she’s not worried that shoppers will use the store soley as a free Internet cafe. “We think the longer they try a Mac, the more they’re going to want one.”
Apple’s slogan of “five down, 95 to go” means the goal of the stores to increase mindshare as much as to ring the cash register. Store Manager Marty Kuznetzow said “we’re here to enrich people’s lives, and that’s not necessarily just through sales.” He said if a customer’s experience in the store led them to buy a Mac through other channels, like the online Apple store, or another reseller, he would consider that as much a success as if the sale had been made in his store.
Tamara Weil-Hearon, an Apple PR specialist, said the company had no hard data yet on how many Windows users the stores were wooing over to Macs. “But every day we’re converting customers,” Turner said. How do you sell Windows users on a Mac? “The first thing (we tell them) is ‘everything is easier on a Mac,'” she said. “Then we talk to them about specifics — what they want to do and how they can do it more easily.”
Turner said Apple is still on track to open a total of 25 stores by the end of the year, although there are no firm plans for another New Jersey location. Nor are there plans for retail advertising campaigns to support the stores, she said. Instead, they rely on their location in highly trafficked, highly visible sites.
The Tice’s Corner site is located just off the Garden State Parkway, in a large outdoor shopping center — still under construction– that it shares with retailers such as Pier 1, Talbot, Banana Republic, Victoria’s Secret and J Crew. Store hours are Mon – Sat from 10a.m. – 9p.m. The store is closed on Sundays.