Monday, 28 September 2009

Retail with a difference

I have blogged about Apple's retail operations before. This time I am concentrating on what some would call hype but what i would call a retail business advantage. I attended the very first opening of a UK Applestore here in Regent Street some years ago now. It was almost a festival, with some Apple addicts camping out for days in advance. i just just happened to be passing through London that day, actually arriving on a long haul flight to Heathrow at 6am that morning. So I stopped off at Regent street and joined the line already a thousand or so long. That was my first  tshirt celebrating a store opening. Since then I have attended many more openings and it is always an interesting experience. The most distant was Toronto at their first Canadian store, since I just happened to be in the city that day.

On Saturday I attended the latest UK opening at the Chapelfield store in Norwich. Again it was fascinating to witness the excitement they were able to generate amongst the people lined up from early when the mall opened. By the time the doors opened at 10am, the queue was winding around the mall central area and almost outside and down the street. Knowing people familiar with the training of new Apple Retail employees, I know the amount of work put into preparation and motivation of the staff is very significant. The result is a pumped up and enthusiastic and happy set of employees ready to greet those people who wait in line for the doors to open. One interesting idea is that the retail staff are actually let out of the new shop to meet the people in line before the people get to enter the store.

Analysis of the line of people is also interesting. Sure there are a number of Apple fanatics and evangelists. But there are also a large number of ordinary inquisitive people who want to see what is going to happen. And looking at the age profile of the people in the line, although there is a mixture, the bulk of people are young adults ... something which is a very positive thing for the future of a company's customer base.

So yet another black tshirt with a different name is added to my collection. It was fun to meet some others in the line last Saturday and good to buy my Snow Leopard upgrade when I got inside the store. And of course my iPhone kept me amused while I waited in line as well! The look of envy on the faces of other retailers in the Chapelfield mall on Saturday was almost palpable. I'm not sure there were as many people in any other stores let alone waiting to go in! Sure there are many things that affect retail success. But seeing enthusiastic and smiling people who are ready to serve you inside is one important one.

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