Early Store Designer Warns That Chain Is Not Evolving

October 3, 2013

Apple’s retail stores are starting to look “long in the tooth,” according to one of the chain’s early designers, and the company should be reinventing the store experience every five years to keep up with the pace of competition from other technology companies. Tim Kobe, co-founder of the design firm Eight Inc., didn’t mention the 11-month vacancy for the chain’s Sr. VP position as the cause of the stores’ malaise. However, he did recall that Steve Jobs was the driving force in developing and fine-tuning the chain when it was originally conceived. Kobe was interviewed by the Web site Dezeen following his appearance in Singapore at this year’s Inside conference on interior design. “It’s not evolving as fast as it could be,” said Kobe of Apple’s chain. “Since Steve passed away the momentum has slowed down a bit. It’s imperative Apple shifts again. They should really refresh every five years.” He warned, “If you’re not reinventing it, you’re losing your advantage.” Kobe recalled that his firm had already been working with Apple on design projects in 1999 when Steve Jobs asked him to start thinking about retail. He recalls trying out a “dense presentation” version of a retail store, but learned, “It wasn’t accessible enough, democratic or simple enough.” The final design was much more open and spacious, he said. Looking ahead, Kobe said, “I think the design is getting a little long in the tooth in terms of just continuing to roll out the same type of solution so my sense is that retail is a competitive environment, and I think Apple’s ready for that next shift.” Apple’s previous Sr. VP Retail was John Browett, who was fired in October 2012 after clashing with Apple’s retail culture. He had been on the job for just six months.

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