Thousands of visitors from several countries visited the new Carrousel du Louvre (Paris) store on Saturday, including a hearty band of 22 who began the wait outside the famous Louvre Museum in 40-degree temperatures and rain. There were at least 500 in line at 10 a.m. to examine the country’s first Apple store, which also provided a surprise glimpse of the new iPod touch point-of-sale (POS) device. The long, L-shaped Genius Bar on the mezzanine level attracted many early visitors to the store, who brought their laptop or iPod and were hoping for a quick solution. The remainder of the crowd was mixed between those admiring the store and many interested in a specific Apple product. Beyond the obvious success of the Louvre store grand opening, the event kicks off the second year of increased international growth for the chain. The economic downturn and the large number of existing stores has slowed growth in the United States. Apple executives have said nearly 50 stores will open in fiscal 2010, with “the majority” being outside the United States.
Check photos of the waiting line, grand opening and store interior here, and then photos of the iPod touch POS and the evening line. Also review my on-going Twitter coverage of the event, which includes some videos and photos along the way. The setteb.IT Web site also has extensive coverage of the grand opening.
Sr. V-P Retail Ron Johnson said in 2001 that the Champs Elysees was one of those places a retailer must be. The company has still not reached that goal. But Johnson has promised to expand the number of stores in France, even saying that France would be the fastest expanding country for the Apple stores.
Once inside, casual visitors to the store didn’t notice Apple’s newest retail technology: an iPod touch specially modified to allow credit card swiping and barcode reading. Several employees were using the devices, which appeared just as small and sleek as shown in photos published exclusively by AppleInsider earlier in the week.
Not all the payment features of the iPod touch were being used in the Paris store. In Europe, it’s common to use a dedicated, portable terminal to process payments made with a smart-chip card, and those terminals were present at the store. Staffers are not actually swiping a credit or debit cards. Instead, they are using the iPod touch only to record the sale and print or e-mail a receipt, and using the credit terminal for the actual payment. The are not taking cash for purchases, as the iPod touch is designed to handle. Instead, the central POS counter is handling cash purchases.
At one point two employees encountered problems printing receipts to the under-table printers. A team of four technicians was on hand to solve technical issues, and was helping the staffers through the procedures to operate the touch POS devices to make sales. Employees were mindful of the new device, and at one point prevented photographs being taken of it. In perhaps typical French style, several employees used a slip-in case to clip the touch to their rear pockets.
The Friday waiting line began at 1:52 p.m. when Arthur arrived from a Paris suburb to become the first person in line. A man from Stuttgart (Germany) was next, followed over the next three hours by another four men from Paris. The line formed along the wall, under a diamond-shaped display case featuring oversized iPods in a Christmas shopping theme.
There was lots of activity inside the store, but no ceremony on Friday. Outside, it was usual buzz from the Louvre Museum crowd and shoppers. Many more stopped in front of the window on this day to stare inside and take pictures of the store. Some came over to ask the waiting line questions. Those in the waiting line came and went to eat or go to the bathroom, and we all watched each other’s belongings while they were gone.
Around 9:30 p.m. Friday workers began erecting the frame to hold a black curtain in front of the front window and doors. About 10 p.m. any view of the interior disappeared when the curtain went up. The curtain had disappeared by the next morning.
The waiting line of 12 was inside the Carrousel until about 10:30 p.m. Friday, when the mall security staff politely asked us to leave prior to the mall closing at 11 p.m. We had been warned the move was coming, and were ready for the cold. However, upon reaching ground level, we found it was raining slightly, wind and even more cold than we remembered from the day. The rain increased during the night, but stopped completely by the time the security staff allowed the line—now about 130—to come back inside. During the night, there were two motorcycle accidents along Rue de Rivoli and another collision when two vehicle tried to navigate the narrow portico entrance to the Louvre courtyard.
Dennis from Germany, Matt from Scotland, Mike from the U.S. and several people from other countries, including students, business men and tourists, made up the early line.
In the 90 minutes before moving inside, the waiting line continued to grow. As a new visitor approached the line from the Louvre courtyard, or appeared from Rue de Rivoli through the portico, the line would begin a chant—if the person joined the line, the crowd would cheer. If the person was just passing by, the chant would trail off into silence. Those joining the line were either embarrassed by the sudden attention, or waved back as they headed down the bicycle fencing to reach the end of the line.
After the line moved inside, the warmth and fatigue hit, and most in the line immediately sat down and dozed in the quiet hall. By 8:30 a.m. Saturday the waiting line was getting restless and more awake. by 9 a.m. the store staff had assembled to have their picture taken in front of the stairs. The press had arrived and were doing interviews with those at the front of the line, and taking video of the waiting line.
At 9:15 a.m. the entire store team of 100 employees came to the front window in their red shirts, calling for #1 Arthur, and clapping for two minutes. Not used to such attention but willing, Arthur stepped out of line, walked over in front of the window and the crowd, and raised him arms, as if to say “Thanks!” He returned to the line, only to have the staff continue clapping, making him return to the window for a second appearance.
At about 9:30 a.m. the staff came outside the store clapping and shouting, and moved down the line of 500 or so people waiting in line down the long hall of the Carrousel. They returned within minutes, and the final wait was on.
Just before 10 a.m. a count-down became audible from somewhere in the crowd—it was impossible to tell if the line started it or Apple. At “Zero,” there was a huge roar from the waiting line and the employees, and visitors began entering the store. The staff had formed a corridor leading inside and to the left, around the stairs. They raised their hands, gave “high-fives” and yelled. Later, as more groups of people came inside, the staffers would perform a “wave,” much to the surprise of those entering.
It was loud inside, especially since the entrance ritual was played out every few minutes, as visitors would leave, allowing new people to come inside. But it all lent to the excitement—probably strange excitement for the French—that is part of an Apple store opening.
It’s difficult to judge a store’s interior when it’s clogged with enthusiastic and curious visitors. Obviously, this store shares all the design materials of other stores: stone, wood, glass and stainless steel. But this store also shares several features of the more spectacular stores—views for visitors. In this case, lower-level visitors have a view of the spiral-glass staircase as it rises to the mezzanine or—even better—a vew through the staircase as light from the outer hall glass pyramid illuminates it from behind.
Lower-level visitors also can look outside through the 30-foot tall window to see activity outside and, again, that amazing inverted glass pyramid that marks the Carrousel du Louvre mall.
For those rising to the mezzanine, there is the constantly changing view of the store as you ascend the stairs. Once up-top, you can hug the railing and see all the activity down below, look outside beyond the back-lit Apple logo suspended in front of the front window, or even glance into the iPhone Activation Zone room angled off to the side.
Several other stores share these types of views, including Boylston Street (Boston), Buchanan Street (Glasgow), George Street (Sydney) and Regent Street (London).
Beyond the views, the store feels open and airy as you come into the lower level. However, as you move back to the rear of the space, the mezzanine level creates a ceiling that feels a little cramped. On the mezzanine itself, you’re back to feeling less constrained by the space, as the ceiling is taller and there are views all around.
The store certainly isn’t a large space. The mezzanine floor-space is necessarily limited in order to accommodate the glass staircase, which itself must be located based on structural and design reasons. The ground floor space is simply limited by the perimeter walls, which could not be expanded or changed in any way. But, typically Apple, for the most part the store never feels cramped. Even in the iPhone Activation Zone—a tiny space for Apple—the very tall ceiling gives visitors a change to “breath.”
The upstairs landing is very large, constrained on one side by the wall of the iPhone Activation Zone, and the other side by—it’s not clear. It seems as if the left side of the mezzanine could have been moved forward to create more floor space, and making the stair landing smaller. Then again, the stairs themselves could have been moved towards the front of the store, but that would have consumed some open space. Symmetry and engineering must be the reasons that the staircase is exactly where it is.
There is about 7,200 square-feet of retail space inside the store. The space is essentially a 65-foot square on the lower level, with an L-shaped mezzanine and rectangular side room.
I counted the queue at various times, including 498 at 11: 30 a.m., from front of the store to the start of the outside “garden” zig-zag inside bicycle fencing, which held at least another 400. Later, at 5 p.m. I counted 137 people still in line waiting to get in, and noticed that no one coming out had a commemorative T-shirt, of which there were reportedly 5,000.
Apple is using the ShopperTrak system to track the number of visitors to the store.
The speedy Internet connection used by the store seems to connect to AT&T Worldwide, and a test run showed upload and download speeds of at least 26 Mbps.
The Apple security staff was polite, funny at times and completely focused on keeping us informed. They were always mindful of the order of the queue and making sure we were in the right place. The mall security staff—probably paid for by Apple—numbered at least 40, and monitored every point in the queue, including four sets of stairs to the outside entrance. Despite the nearly 750 to 800 people in line for hours, there appeared to be no incidents.
One of many first for an Apple store waiting line—the appearance of a naked man at 5:30 a.m., apparently intoxicated, enroute home and needing some attention. After five minutes of annoying the crowd by screaming “Windows” and “Linux,” he moved on.E-mail this story