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Nearly two years after Apple’s real estate scouts were spotted walking the hallways of the Lakeside Joondalup (Australia) shopping mall, sources say Apple has finally signed a lease there and has started to recruit new employees. The store would be the third along the western coast of the country, an outpost of Apple stores about 1,300 miles away from the next-nearest stores. The timing of the new store is understanable—the mall is undergoing a renovation and expansion that will make it the largest shopping center in Western Australia. The work will free up existing spaces and create new ones where Apple can find the perfect 5,000 square-foot location. The city of Joondalup is about 16 miles north of the existing Perth City Apple store, and within the north-south retail corridor established as part of Perth’s master plan back in the 1960s. No specific space within the mall has been reported, but a lease plan shows there are several potential spots. Based on hiring schedules, the store could open in early 2015.


Employees of Apple’s retail stores in Australia have reached agreement with the company on a four-year contract that covers pay, benefits and working conditions, but retail observers say Apple’s offer was barely over the retail industry’s current averages, and includes just two percent annual raises. The contract was approved by 90 percent of the company’s 2,372 retail store employees who voted at the country’s 21 stores. The agreement was certified today by the federal government’s Fair Work Commission (FWC), the national agency that performs wage reviews and sets minimum wage standards. Under the agreement, there are three levels of employee pay, and pay rates for both full-time and “casual” employees. When the agreement becomes effective this November 1st, starting pay for full-time Level 1 employees will be $20.95 per hour (all rates in U.S. dollars), and Level 2 will start at $25.26. Casual employees will receive 25 percent more per hour to offset fewer benefits. Level 3 employees are management, and will receive a base annual pay of $72,779. The Level 1 base pay represents a 25 percent premium over the current $16.69 Australian minimum wage. However, the annual pay increases are less than the FWC’s 2.6 percent increase in the 2013 minimum wage. details


Over two years after Apple’s architects filed blueprints for the MacArthur Chambers (Brisbane), another set of drawings has appeared in the city’s planning files, providing revisions to certain construction details and finally confirming the store is a “go.” The revisions were filed last week, and are mostly minor changes to a back stairway, mezzanine wall and certain window details. Construction on the building began just after the previous bookstore tenant moved out in mid-2011. The bankruptcy of the store’s major contractor in mid-2012 delayed the project, and there were also reportedly more delays created by installing a modern retail store within an historic building. Earlier this year court action seemed to indicate the project had been entirely canceled. But the latest blueprints show the project is active. A landscape plan filed Wednesday reveals that Apple will remove distracting sidewalk items in front of the store, and align two trees to create symmetry with the façade elements of the building. According to tipsters, the store could open this October. Download (pdf) the interior blueprints and the landscape plan for more details. blueprints


After more than two years of planning and troubled construction work, Apple has decided to withdraw from its commitment to lease retail space inside the historic MacArthur Chambers building in city-center Brisbane (Australia), losing some part of the project’s $11.4 million cost. It’s the first post-construction Apple store abandonment to become public, and the first high-profile store cancellation ever. Tipsters who reported the remarkable decision were reluctant to divulge why it was made—for financial, engineering or other reasons. The project first became public in April 2011 when architectural drawings were submitted to city officials for approval. The plans showed the store covering over 18,000 square-feet on basement, ground-floor and mezzanine levels. Serviced apartments occupy the upper levels of the seven-story building. Like several other high-profile international stores, the project included both an extensive restoration of the 1934 heritage building, and then careful installation of the traditional Apple retail store interior elements. In February 2012 the primary contractor for the project filed for bankruptcy, temporarily stalling work. But within two months, construction on the building began anew. Since then, tipsters have repeatedly reported that the store’s grand opening was being pushed back. It’s not clear how much construction had been completed when the bail-out decision was made. Fortunately for Brisbane Apple customers, the region continues to be served by three retail stores. Download (pdf) the project’s construction plans and floor plans for a sense of the project’s scope.


Two months after the Chatswood Chase (Australia) Apple retail store closed and moved to a temporary space, details are emerging about the major construction that will nearly triple the original location’s space for visitors. According to city planning documents, three mall spaces will be consolidated for the expanded store, and there will also be major changes to a mall loading dock and elevator to accommodate the store’s second-level back-of-house space. The store opened in August 2008 in a suburb north of Sydney in a nearly mini-store space just 25 feet wide. The original store had one center row of tables and shallow wall counters in less than 1,000 square-feet. According to the plans filed with the city, the future store will expand into the spaces to the left and right, and move back-of-house operations to a space on the level above. The mall’s ground-floor loading dock will be reconfigured, and the existing elevator will be rebuilt to extend exclusively from the dock to the second level Apple space. The loading dock change also required changes to an outside walkway used for fire egress. Interestingly, the plan approval required Apple to make a $3,074 cash contribution for childcare, open space and recreational facilities under a provision of the national environmental laws applicable to all retailers. Download (pdf) the planning document for more details. details

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The thrill of using an iPhone to buy products at an Apple store, and then simply strolling out the front door, is coming to Australia. On Thursday the company will turn on EasyPay service for the country, letting product-focused customers bypass all human interaction and quickly pay for their product. The service has been available in the United States since November 2011, and rolled out to the UK and The Netherlands in the following months. The service is part of the Apple store app for iOS devices, which also provides product information and reviews, Personal Pickup, a store finder and direct access to the stores’ various reservation systems. The EasyPay service has reportedly received high scores during post-purchase customer surveys, and praise from knowledgeable customers who are in a hurry to buy one specific product. It’s not clear why Apple has implemented EasyPay in the selected countries, and whether it’s a technology or cultural reason. There also is no information about how EasyPay may have led to increased shoplifting at the stores. After a purchase, a receipt is emailed to the customer and can also be displayed with the Apple store app. However, employees don’t routinely verify EasyPay purchases as customers leave the store.


A design proposal for an unnamed retailer at the future Rundle Place (Adelaide, Australia) development is under fire from the state’s planning agency, and a rendering confirms the design is for an Apple store. The criticism of the stainless steel and glass storefront by planning officials isn’t unusual for Apple, and neither is Apple’s secrecy is presenting its proposal to South Australia state officials. As reported by AdelaideNow, planning for the office-retail development began in 2009, and exterior designs have already been approved. However, last month the developer submitted a revision for one specific space that drew immediately criticism from the Development Assessment Commission (DAC), which said the design lacked “identity.” State planning department chief architect Philippe Mortier was even more critical, calling the design “unimaginative and disappointing slavish application of generic corporate style—the manicured world image ahead of the local amenity.” Chief project officer Gabrielle McMahon called upon the DAC to defer approval of the design, and to ask the developer for an amended plan that addresses the criticisms. The development is scheduled to open in 2013. Download (pdf) the design proposal that includes maps, plans and photos of the development, along with the DAC response to the architect’s revisions. rendering

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The capitol city of Australia is one of two Apple retail stores that will open later this year, according to newly-posted job listings. The country already has 13 Apple  stores from coast-to-coast, and two additional stores are now under construction in Sydney and Perth. The location of the future store in Canberra isn’t known, but it would be about three hours south of the nearest Apple store in Sydney. There are two potential malls in the region operated by Westfield, one of Apple’s favorite developers—Woden southwest of city center, and Belconnen, northwest. The second job listing likely confirms a two year-old tip about a store at Westfield Carindale, southeast of city-center Brisbane on the east-central coast. Like the Canberra listing, a specific location isn’t mentioned, but in 2010 tipsters said a large tenant was moving out to make space for Apple, and the mall was undergoing a renovation. Construction on both stores could be finished for October 2012 grand openings.


When it comes to Apple stores, remote Perth (Australia) has been the continent’s luckiest city—they have an Apple store, and a distinctive one at that. Now the region’s luck will be doubled when a second store opens in the upscale suburb of South Perth this fall. According to insiders, Apple will open a store somewhere in the city of 38,000 that looks north across the Swan River to city-center Perth. The city has no large shopping center, so it’s possible the store will be tucked into one of the main shopping streets. The existing Perth City store is just a 10-minute drive away. But beyond that, it’s 1,700 miles to the next-nearest stores in the Melbourne suburbs. Based on construction schedules, the South Perth store could open by this September. Update: Locals speculate the store will be located within the Garden City shopping mall located in Booragoon, somewhat southwest of South Perth.


The international expansion of Apple’s retail stores will continue this Saturday with the grand opening of the Penrith (Australia) retail store. The store is located within the Westfield-operated shopping mall along the highway that leads east to Sydney, about an hour’s drive away. The store will bring the region’s store total to five and the total Australia stores to 11. The grand opening will occur at 9 a.m.

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A previous tip that Apple planned a future store in South Melbourne (Australia) has now been confirmed for the Westfield Southland shopping mall. According to Macworld Australia, mall management confirmed that an Apple store is now under construction in a closed-off area of the complex. The huge mall has 1.3 million square feet with 360 retailers, a cinema and several restaurants. Based on the timing of the store’s job listing, the store could open by late October.

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Two trademarks of Apple retail are in play for Australia’s next retail store—secrecy and the expensive renovation of an historic building. The company submitted nearly 200 pages of detailed documents to the Brisbane Planning and Development office last week asking to locate a store in the basement, ground floor and mezzanine of the MacArthur Chambers building along Queen Street in city center. Typically, the company’s name is mentioned nowhere in the documents, but architectural drawings clearly show traditional Apple store elements, including display tables, a Genius Bar with stools and the kids area. Also typically, Apple is spending $US11.4 million to fully renovate the building, removing non-original elements that were added in 1980 and 2001, and bringing the space back to its original 1934 appearance. The building plans were first reported on by Web site, locating the store inside 233-255 Queen Street, a seven-story building later named for General Douglas MacArthur, who headquartered there for two years during World War II. Based on the necessary permit review process and extensive renovation, the store will open some time in 2012. more info


The tradition of a four-day holiday over Easter weekend in Australia means that some of the country’s Apple stores will be closed on certain days starting this Friday. During the Friday–Monday holiday, the country celebrates a huge Easter show at Sydney’s Opera House, football teams play matches, yachts race off Brisbane and horse races are held in Melbourne. The holiday is also the busiest period for domestic air travel, as friends and families visit each other. All ten Australia Apple stores will be closed on Good Friday, and then either on Easter Sunday or Easter Monday, or both. The company’s Web pages for Apple stores in other countries don’t show Easter hours. However, almost all stores in Europe are regularly closed on Sundays. Update: With 24 hours, U.S. store holiday hours were posted—high-profile stores will be open on Easter, a very few other stores will be open on Easter (including Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Miami, Reston, Seattle), and other stores will be closed. screen grab


Apple will push further into suburban towns along the east coast of Australia when the Charlestown retail store holds its grand opening next Thursday, October 21st. Unusually, the company gave a full week’s notice for the grand opening of the store, the country’s 10th, about two hours north of Sydney. Beyond Sydney, Apple has planted just two stores along the east coast, both in the Brisbane region. That store spacing leaves 575 miles of coastline without an Apple presence, which this location will help provide. The grand opening will be at 5 p.m., with the usual 1,000 commemorative T-shirts.


Apple will open its newest retail store in Australia on Thursday morning, inside the Castle Towers Shopping Centre in the far northwest suburbs of Sydney. The store is on the upper level in a huge corner space that faces the center of the mall, next to the David Jones store entrance. It will be the ninth store in Australia, and the fourth in the Sydney region. The store opens at 5 p.m. read more…