Faced with an additional four years of underground transit tunnel construction in front of the San Francisco (N. Calif.) Apple store, and feeling the general crush of increased store visitors, the company will move retail operations two blocks away, into a stunning two-level, glass storefront location facing the city’s main square. Significantly, the plans were announced by SF mayor Ed Lee, who said he hopes the new store would help reverse waning retail activity in the area. Lee did not say if the city had offered Apple any incentives or permit accommodations to make the move. At a stand-up event inside the current nearby Apple store on Thursday, Lee told reporters the relocated store would have 45 percent more space and 50 more employees than the existing store that opened in February 2004. That store occupies about 10,800 square-feet within a building faced with stainless steel. The store has no interior or exterior visibility, since there are no windows and only one narrow skylight. A single-run glass staircase connects the ground-floor and second level. The relocated store will feature a towering glass storefront, allowing total visibility for both passersby and visitors. The glass consists of 11 panels that are about 40-feet tall. A wide glass staircase on both sides of the store provides access to the upper level. The rear wall of the store appears to be semi-transparent, allowing a view of the adjacent hotel plaza. A relatively small white Apple logo is suspended at the top-center of the storefront. The existing flagship Levi’s store occupies only a partial, triangular portion of the parcel, and the remaining space is a public, red-brick plaza. According to Apple’s rendering, the store will occupy the southern portion of the parcel, and there is open space visible to the north. Although mayor Lee confirmed the project to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, he did not provide a timeline for the move. details
Apple is making a second proposal to the city of Miami Beach (Fla.) to build an expanded store along the Lincoln Road pedestrian shopping mall, after being denied permission to demolish and rebuild in 2011. The new project is next door to the previous proposal, which eventually became a Gap clothing store, and just 1,000 feet from the existing Apple store that opened in July 2006. Like most early stores, the original store was built on a 30-foot wide model that covers 3,000 square-feet, and has become increasingly crowded with visitors. As part of a general plan of expanding smaller stores, in 2011 Apple proposed to demolish and rebuild the building at 1001 Lincoln Road, using a version of the Upper West Side (NYC) architecture. However, the city planning commission objected to the complete demolition of what it considered to be an historic structure, and eventually Gap built on the site. Now Apple has made a second expansion proposal for 1021-1025 Lincoln Road, a 60-foot wide space occupied by three retailers. According to the June 11th agenda (pdf) for the city’s Historic Preservation Board, the current structure would be demolished, and replaced with a two-level Apple store totaling nearly 10,000 square-feet. The 1932-era building is considered “contributing” to the historic Lincoln Road district, and is listed in the Miami Beach Historic Properties database. It was renovated most-recently in 2000 and 2004, perhaps reducing its historical significance and the potential for demolition objections by the city’s board. Based on the approval process timeline and construction schedules, the expanded store would open in 2014. map
The workload of Apple retail store Genius Bars is scheduled for a huge increase later this year, after the company introduces a revamped AppleCare product that includes a longer list of iPhone, iPad and iPod problems that will repaired in-house. The changes will reportedly save the company $1 billion a year, but could also significantly lower customer satisfaction with time-consuming repairs, instead of being handled in five minutes with a swap-out. According to AppleInsider, Apple vice president Tara Bunch announced today to employees that in-store repairs will be expanded to include display replacement, sleep/wake buttons and logic boards. Previously, repairs were only made for problems with speakers, receivers, home buttons, the vibrator motor and battery. The tipster did not report that Bunch announced additional Genius Bar staffing to accommodate the increased workload of repairs. According to AppleInsider’s tipster, the current AppleCare model will also change from product-based to customer-based, and free after-sales product support will be extended for a longer period. Apple’s Genius Bars are a significant link in the chain of customer satisfaction, along with the ability of iPhones, iPads and iPods to be restored from a computer-based back-up. In fact, the Genius Bar is the destination of over 25 percent of store visitors, who highly value the ability to simply swap-out a defective iProduct under warranty with a remanufactured one. Under the proposed plan, customers will have to wait some period of time for their iProduct to be repaired, but it’s not clear if that period will be several hours or overnight.
After weeks of financial analyst pessimism about Apple’s product sales and a resulting plunge in its stock price, the company announced record unit sales and revenues during the second quarter of 2013, and teased new product categories in the future. The retail stores participated fully in the sales success, with record second-quarter sales of $5.24 billion, also the third-highest revenue in the chain’s history. Retail store profit was $1.1 billion, exactly the same as the year-ago quarter, but still considered strong. Without explanation, the company said fewer new stores will open this year, part of an on-going decline from a peak of 50 in fiscal 2008. Total revenue for the company was $43.0 billion, a new record for any second quarter of the company’s history. Sales of the iPad set a new quarterly record at 19.5 million units, and iPhone sales reached 37.4 million units, also a record. Significantly, during a period of slumping sales in the personal computer industry, Apple sold almost four million Mac computers, down just two percent from the previous quarter. During a conference call, CFO Peter Oppenheimer told financials analysts that IDC had pegged the PC market decline 14 percent during the same period. read more
For reasons that aren’t obvious, Apple has restated the terms of its retail store One to One service to limit how data migration services are offered for new Macintosh purchases. The service is significant, since the company reports that over half of Mac purchases are to new-to-Mac customers, including those with Windows PCs who want to move their existing data to a Mac. The U.S. term revisions appeared yesterday on the “Details” Web page for the One to One service, which is offered to new Mac buyers for $99 per year. For that price, a customer can receive Personal Training, Group Training, and Open Training at any Apple retail store, along with initial data migration from an existing Mac or PC to their new Mac. In the latest version of the service terms, data migration can now only be requested within the first 60 days of of the service, instead of any time during the one year service term. The installation of compatible Apple hardware is now limited to whatever was purchased with the new Mac. The store staff will now “assist” with the installation of software that a customer purchases during a Personal Training or Open Training session. Previously, the staff would “install” software, and the location of purchase wasn’t qualified. Data migration will no longer be performed via Wi-Fi for both Mac and PC computers. Instead, only Ethernet, Thunderbolt, Firewire or USB connections are supported. And lastly, Apple added one operating system condition for data migration—the Macs must be running the most recent version of OS X. Typically, retail service terms are changed whenever it’s discovered that the service is more labor intensive, more troublesome or more costly to operate than anticipated. From the term changes, it’s not clear which of those motives might apply in this case.
One of two terrorist bombs that exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday was just one block from the Boylston Street (Mass.) Apple retail store, close enough to rattle the tall glass windows and unnerve employees. No one in the store was injured, and the building remained intact. But today the store was closed to comply with a law enforcement security zone, and coincidentally so employees could recover from the terrorist attack that killed three spectators and injured over 176 other people. Apple replaced the store’s usual Web page with a simply-worded message of support for the community. “Our thoughts are with our neighbors in the community and everyone affected by Monday’s tragedy in Boston,” the message said. The explosions occurred at 2:50 p.m., about two hours after spectators packed the sidewalks to watch the front-runners cross the finish line. As mid-pack runners passed the Apple store towards the finish line located 1,000 feet east, the first explosion occurred. Within 12 seconds, the second device detonated, just 560 feet from the Apple store. Both bombs were placed on the sidewalk, on the same side of Boylston Street as the Apple store. Tweets by store visitors after the blasts said everyone in the store was shepherded into the basement after the explosions until it was determined to be safe outside. City officials say the investigation security zone could be in place through Thursday, meaning the store might re-open on Friday. Apple stores are infrequently closed for an entire day, mostly for weather-related events or electrical problems. Update: The store re-opened April 24th. read more…
As the 12th anniversary of Apple’s retail stores approaches next month, the company is significantly shifting the chain’s very foundation—its architecture. Sources say the company will no longer build street-level stores that feature an arched glass roof, and that it has reached out to another architecture/design firm to carry the chain through the next decade. Strangely, at least one motive for the changes is money, the sources say. While the stores’ design has been the work of many, from the beginning major credit has been given to architects Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and interior designers Eight Inc. Both firms have navigated both mall and street-level stores through the early days of black metal storefronts and wood floors, and into the modern age of all-glass storefronts and stone tiles. They have also handled high-profile stores, which have alternated between large, modern façades and carefully-restored historic buildings. Now, things are changing. details
The final word has been issued on the long-running and troubled construction of the MacArthur Chambers (Brisbane, Australia) Apple retail store, but mystery still surrounds why Apple cancelled the project in the first place. According to tipsters, a Queensland state court has ruled that Apple must continue to pay for construction on their portion of retail space within the historic building, up to a “end-of-lease handover” standard. That is, additional construction must be performed inside the space so the building owner can lease the space to another tenant. Within days of the court’s ruling, Apple began taking bids from local contractors for the required work. Right now, passersby say the two-level retail space in city-center is quiet. About half the interior work is unfinished before another retailer could install their own store interior. An extensive renovation on the 1934-era building began in mid-2011, but was interrupted in early 2012 when contractor Kell & Rigby went bankrupt. Work began anew within months, but stopped again in in Nov. 2012 when Apple decided to cancel the store. Since then, virtually no work has been performed on the interior. The reason for Apple pulling the plug on the project is still unknown.
Customers at Apple’s retail stores may some day be able to purchase products and immediately load them up with a customized collection of music and apps from a kiosk, all without taking the product from its retail packaging. The invention would allow someone to purchase an iPhone as a gift, for example, then activate and load it with songs or albums personally selected for the recipient. In a patent application filed by the company this week, Apple provided details on the invention, which they described as, “A method for providing customized content to an electronic device…including activating the electronic device through a packaging that substantially surrounds the electronic device.” The application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office explains that the packaging would allow access to the 30-pin or Lightning port of inner device. The buyer would approach a kiosk, plug in the device, and then use a touch-screen to select what music, apps or other software to purchase and load. In another version of the patent, loading apps or music would be performed wirelessly. Companies typically file patent applications to protect certain technology inventions, but doing so never guarantees that the invention will ever be commercially produced. In this case, it’s impossible to know if Apple intends to use the technology within its own retail stores or simply license it to others—if the patent is granted. Download (pdf) the entire patent application for more details. diagram
The smallest Apple store in San Francisco has been scheduled for an expansion this year, more than double its square-footage in a curved space not far from the original store. The project is among about 20 stores that Apple will expand this year to manage an ever-growing number of shoppers and visitors to the Genius Bars. A characteristic black plywood construction barricade appeared this week in front of three spaces at the Stonestown Galleria where the future store will occupy 7,690 square-feet with an unusual curved glass storefront. That size will put the store on near-equal footing with San Francisco’s two other existing stores, which are street-level and range from 9,500 to 15,000 square feet. A city building permit (pdf) puts the value of the construction at $1,996,994. The existing store opened in Sept. 2004 with a 25-foot wide storefront framed by stainless steel, among the narrowest in the chain. The space is T-shaped and covers 3,160 square-feet overall, but with just 1,500 square feet of public retail space that is inadequate for training or Personal Setup activities. To make way for Apple’s expansion, the JC Culture, Talbots and Chico’s stores have moved out over the past months. Apple will occupy both of the first two spaces, and part of the vacant Chico’s space. Based on construction schedules, the Stonestown Galleria store could open in time for this year’s holiday shopping season. (The store was edited to reflect a revised square-footage for the expanded store.) photos/diagram
The man who briefly held the reins of Apple’s retail stores last year has admitted that he didn’t fit the company’s culture, but during an interview also said the experience had made him a “kinder” person. John Browett made the brief remarks during an on-stage interview at the Retail Week Live 2013 conference in London this week. He held the position of Sr. VP Retail for six months after Ron Johnson resigned in early 2012 to head JC Penney. When asked about his Apple experience, Browett said Apple was was a “great company” and had a “great culture.” He acknowledged bumping into that iconic culture by carefully describing the conflict: “I just didn’t fit within the way they ran the business. For me it was just one of those shopping things, where you are ejected from the organization for the fit, rather than competency.” Insiders have said Browett emphasized sales and revenue over excellent customer service, frequently putting him at odds with veteran Apple retail executives. Despite his firing, Browett put a positive spin on the experience. “It’s probably actually the best thing that’s ever happened to me, certainly from a business perspective,” he said. “Because what you learn from that is great humility. It certainly makes you a much kinder person.” Browett seemingly acknowledged that he may have been abrasive while at Apple. “I think the other big thing for me was that it actually got me very clear about how I am, and what I actually am like to work with, and that is a really amazing lesson.” Looking ahead, Browett said his Apple time would be a benefit. “It will make me much better at doing my job in the future.” Browett is now CEO of Monsoon Accessorize, a UK-based women’s and children’s clothing firm. video
Demolition and construction is underway along a narrow street in the city of Haarlem (The Netherlands), and all the clues indicate it will be the country’s next Apple retail store. The space is along Grote Houtstraat, the city’s main shopping pedestrian walkway, close to many other upscale international retailers. As detailed by OneMoreThing.nl, demolition has been completed on the ground floor along the street, and the entire rear of the narrow-but-deep parcel. Two levels of apartments will remain above the store, part of a “Live Above Shops” program. On the ground level, the store will comprise about 8,000 square-feet, extending all the way to the street behind the store. Based on construction progress, the location could become the second store in the country by year’s end, beating out another future store location in The Hague that is also under construction. photos/floorplan
In response to complaints by Apple retail store employees in France, a government labor agency fined the company yesterday for making its employees work past the 9 p.m. store closing hour, and warned the company that it faces stiffer penalties for future violations. The ruling means store employees will leave work almost immediately, instead of continuing to work—sometimes until 11 p.m., according to employee complaints—to put the store in order or to complete Genius Bar tasks. Apple had argued before Le Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris that post-9 p.m. work wasn’t routine, and denied any violation of work rules. The situation may seem unusual to retail workers in the United States, who often work past closing time for various reasons, and who earn overtime for any work past 40 hours in a work week. However, many countries have work rules that prohibit overnight work except under extraordinary circumstances, or operating retail stores on Sundays. In this case, French law restricts work between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. only for business operations, “to ensure continuity of economic activity or social utility.” details
An upscale two-block collection of retail stores in west Berkeley (Calif.) was doing well for many years, but revenues skyrocketed just after the Fourth Street Apple retail store opened in 2011. According to a just-released economic analysis by the city, the store quadrupled sales tax revenues for the district over a two-year period, an increase unmatched by any category in any other city shopping district. The city of 102,000 sits along San Francisco Bay, and is home to the University of California. Demographically the city covers a wide span of education, income and tech usage. The store’s location along Interstate 80 makes it an easy destination for people from many surrounding cities. In the report, the city’s economic development manager describes Berkeley’s 10 shopping districts, and notes the trends since January 2010. Within those districts, most category sales tax income was lackluster. Restaurants, service stations, and auto sales showed the most gains of any category, but only from 15% to 35% over the two years. However, for Fourth Street, the category that includes the Apple store increased from from about $45,000 in sales tax revenue in the second quarter of 2011, to about $205,000 in the first quarter of 2012, a 450 percent increase. details
A set of planning documents just submitted to Edinburgh (Scotland) city officials provides final confirmation that an Apple store will open in city center, inside an historic building where renovations are just being completed. The store at 10-15 Princes Street will be within sight of the city’s iconic hilltop castle, and along the city’s busiest shopping street. The store will span two levels totaling 9,000 square-feet, with basement and other back-of-house spaces totaling another 8,500 square-feet. Apple store enthusiasts were on the prowl for several years trying to find where Apple would locate—apparently, so was the company. It wasn’t until March 2011 that Apple selected an historic building that variously housed a Woolworth’s department store and Burger King fast-food restaurant. For the past 18 months construction work by the building owner has focused on restoring historic architectural details and upgrading the building’s support systems. Then, earlier this month Apple’s local architectural firm, MPA Architects, submitted applications and drawings to the city for a retail store, but did not reveal the future tenant. However, the architects are the same ones who assisted in creating the Covent Garden (London) Apple store. Also, the drawings match the unique interior design and layout of Apple’s stores. And finally, a construction application filed for a Barclays Bank within the same building specifically mentions the corner tenant will be Apple. details