Three window washers dangle from rope lines above the sidewalk at the George Street (Sydney) Apple retail store on Monday night. Several passersby snapped photos of the operation and posted them on various social media sites, including Enzo Paoli who shared this photo on Instagram. The 30-foot tall glass panels were the tallest in the chain when the store opened in June 2008. The glass windows are a key element of the store’s design, and have helped the store become an icon in city center—hence, the need to keep the glass spotless. view from up top

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After seven years of agonizing debate, funding battles and design revisions, an architect has now issued a new rendering for the proposed Midtown Plaza development in downtown Rochester (NY) that includes an Apple store that breaks every one of the tech company’s architectural and design rules. The rendering is obviously speculative, yet its use of a textured metal storefront, narrow glass panels and an oddly-positioned Apple logo violates the unwritten rules of depicting another company’s trademarked architecture. The renderings were prepared by the New York-based firm of Philip Michael Brown Studio, and show the Apple store on a prominent corner, adjacent to a movie theater. Interestingly, the rendering is posted on-line in three versions, both with and without a stone wall above the metallic-looking storefront, and with-and-without an Apple logo. In all versions, a spiral glass staircase is visible behind the storefront glass, along with wall-mounted product counters. The project arises from the decline of the 1962-era Midtown Plaza complex on nine acres in the downtown area. The city acquired title to the complex of buildings in 2008. Since then, the site has been vacant as the city worked to raise funding, approve designs and demolish old buildings.

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While most speculation about new Apple stores is focused outside the United States these days, a job listing has appeared pointing to the center of Michigan for a future store. Today Apple gave a Valentine’s Day gift to the city of Lansing with the formal announcement of job openings at a store somewhere in the city. At the same time, a second job listing has confirmed earlier speculation of a future Ohio store. Lansing is a city of 113,000 nearly in the middle of the lower peninsula, with Apple stores just over an hour away both east (Detroit region) and west (Grand Rapids). As usual, today’s listing doesn’t provide a specific location for the future store. However, the Lansing Mall and Eastwood Towne Center are possibilities within the city limits, as is the super-regional Meridian Mall just 15 minutes east in Okemos. The future store will fill in Apple store coverage for the mid-state and bring the state’s total to six stores. Based on past timelines, the Lansing store could open this fall. In another job listing posted today, Apple confirmed an earlier report of a future store in Dayton (Ohio). Again, the exact location isn’t known, and the store could open this fall. Update: Within days a commenter noted a black barricade across space #4 at Eastwood Towne Center, a 6,019 square-foot location that is listed as “leased” on the mall’s Web site. On February 20th a building permit application was located that confirmed the store’s location. read more…

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Even as some of Apple most talented retail store executives have left the company, one exec is moving up. Today the company announced that Denise Young Smith has been promoted from VP Global Retail Stores to head the company’s Human Resources Department. The promotion dovetails with the promotion of company HR head Joel Podolny to dean of Apple University, an internal leadership development program begun in 2008. In an email to Bloomberg News confirming the promotion, Apple spokesperson Christine Huguet said, “We are excited that Denise Young Smith will expand her role to lead Apple’s worldwide human resources organization.” Young Smith, 58, is an original Apple retail employee, recruited in 2000 as director of retail HR and eventually promoted to retail vice-president. She graduated from Grambling State University (La.) and received a degree in communications and journalism. In college she also participated in dance, music and theater activities, talents that she practices today as a singer. Young Smith has performed at Carnegie Hall, according to her bio, at overseas music festivals and in the San Jose area. Young Smith is a frequent visitor to retail store grand openings, particularly as Apple has expanded internationally. Few retail executives have moved upward through the company, particularly in recent times. In fact, since Sr. VP Retail Ron Johnson left the company in June 2011, several other top and mid-level executives departed rather than seek promotions. The retail Sr. VP position has been vacant for the past 15 months, but Burberry exec Angela Ahrendts was appointed to the spot last year, and is due begin work in May.

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Apple’s retail store expansion into China has been slow and methodical, and has not reached any of its publicly-stated goals, leaving store watchers with little to see. But now tipsters say two stores are in different phases of construction in Chongqing central China, with one store possibly opening this year. The region is home to 28 million residents, and is a major transport hub on the Yangtze River. The nearest Apple store is MixC Chengdu, about four hours away by road. The first future store is under construction at the Paradise Walk mall, one of the city’s most upscale shopping destinations. The store will reportedly resemble the existing IFC Mall (Hong Kong) store on two levels, and construction is underway behind bamboo poles and screening. The second store will be at Guotai Square, a new development. This store will resembled the Pudong (Shanghai) store, but construction appears to have stalled for now. Former Sr. VP retail Ron Johnson set a goal of having 25 Apple stores open by February 2012. And last year current CEO Tim Cook said he wanted to double the number of China stores within two years. Despite those efforts, there are just 11 stores in the country now, with reported future locations only in Dalian and Guangzhou. According to tipsters, the Paradise Walk store could open by year’s end, but the timeline for the Guotai Square store isn’t known. photos

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Apple enthusiasts living in Dayton (Ohio) have felt lonely for the past 13 years without a retail store, and downright sad as rumors of a possible store have come and gone. Now, there may be sunshine on the horizon after a black construction barricade has appeared at The Greene shopping mall, and a tipser reveals that several retailers have been relocated to create a prime space, both Apple trademarks. The first Dayton store rumors surfaced in 2004 and centered on the Dayton Mall, then undergoing an expansion. Two years later The Greene opened, and once again rumors arose about an Apple presence. In the meantime, Apple product users have had to travel to the Kenwood Towne Centre (Cincinnati, 45 minutes) or Easton Town Center (Columbus, 1:17) stores for products or service. The Greene is just 10 miles southeast of downtown Dayton along I-675 the the suburb of Beavercreek. If construction is underway now behind the barricade, the Apple store could open this fall. Update: Within a week Apple posted a job listing for Dayton, but without a specific location, and a black barricade was noted in front of space C15. The store could open in fall 2014 read more…

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Visitors to the Third Street Promenade (S. Calif.) store have spotted air sampling equipment on the product display tables, an indication the company is attempting to trace the source of bad odors that have been plaguing the store. The persistent and foul odor appeared several weeks ago, and was publicized last week in a post on the financial-oriented The Street Web site. Because of the large number of daily visitors to each store—3,000 on average—it is not uncommon for stores to have some type of odor. However, now the company has hired a company to test the air using Sensidyne Gil-Air air sample pumps at TSP. The gear is commonly used to collect airborne asbestos, lead and other contaminants for lab analysis. Here the equipment is being used to collect all the airborne particles to help solve the odor mystery. Like other Apple stores that use an under-floor ventilation system, the TSP store has ductwork and a trench underneath the stone floor. The space also contains a sump pump to prevent the accumulation of water in the space. photo

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At its regular weekly meeting today the San Francisco Planning Commission approved the proposed glass and steel design for a downtown Apple store that would replace the nearby existing store that opened in February 2004. After almost two hours of debate, the commissioners voted 5-1 to approve the store, but included an amendment asking the architects to revisit the rear plaza’s accessibility features. The commissioners were nearly unanimous in their praise for the building design, but were concerned about the process of relocating the historic Ruth Asawa fountain, and inelegant outdoor elevators proposed to provide access to the plaza behind the store. The Apple store agenda items kicked off with Rick Militello, director of Apple retail store development, introducing the store design. He said it would be “the flagship” for Apple, and added, “This will be more iconic than the glass cube that you might be familiar with in New York City.”  Foster + Partners architect James McGrath then gave a short walk-through of the store, and then the commissioners began their questions and discussion. On the subject of the fountain, one commissioner asked that their vote include an amendment to carefully preserve and move the fountain. However, a commission staffer pointed out that Apple had already agreed to those conditions at yesterday’s Historic Preservation Board meeting. That group approved the store design 6-1. The Planning Commission tied in voting on a procedural motion related to the store’s conformance with city zoning regulations. That vote means the city’s Board of Supervisors will make the final decision on the store project, and they are expected to approve it. The store could open in 2015. details

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During a meeting with the president of Turkey today, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed that a retail store will open in the country during April, and described it as having features that aren’t present at other stores in the chain. Accompanied by other company executives, Cook met with Abdullah Gül for a second time in a year to discuss the government’s purchase of 10 million iPads to equip all of the country’s schools. The presence of a retail store in Turkey is widely believed to be one of the government’s requirements for closing the $4 billion deal. Turkey’s demographics and location had made it an unlikely choice for a store, especially a high-profile location, and particularly in light of other more tech-advanced countries without Apple stores (but see comments). Cook explained Apple’s historical focus on the education market, and in particular that the retail stores have always been focused on education and training. Insiders say the store is under construction now at the huge Zorlu Center development on the European side of Istanbul. The store will feature a rectangular glass entrance on the plaza of the mall, and two underground levels of retail space. During the meeting Gül told Cook that Turkey has a young and dynamic population that could support Apple’s retail stores. He added that as worker incomes increase, so would Apple’s store revenues. As reported on the government’s official Web page, Gül also raised the issue of creating Turkish-localized keyboards, opening Apple research and development facilities within the country, and improving developer support. Cook told the president that iPads and iPhones have become necessities of modern life, and called on the government to exempt them from the country’s luxury tax, usually 18 percent. video clip

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Ahead of a hearing this week by city officials, Apple has submitted revised architectural designs for an expanded San Francisco (Calif.) retail store, tweaking the storefront to include fortress-like rolling glass doors to better blend into the neighborhood. Apple’s legal team also delivered a sharply-worded rebuke to a local workers’ union that was critical of the design, calling their comments “flatly false” and “deliberately misleading.” The bulk of Apple’s original design for a two-level, stainless steel and glass store in the city’s downtown remains the same. But in response to concerns by members of the city’s Architectural Heritage Commission, architects Foster + Partners redesigned the all-glass façade to include thicker vertical framing elements. They added two full-height doors—44.5 feet tall—in the center of the façade, capable of being opened when the weather permits. A narrow building to the left of the main retail space is still clad with stone, with a paneling configuration that provides a transition from the existing adjacent building. The city’s Planning Commission will consider the revised design and other matters related to the project at a meeting this Thursday. read more…

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An enormously wide and suspiciously white plywood barricade has appeared along a retail street in Walnut Creek (N. Calif.), announcing that the existing Apple store two blocks away will eventually move into much larger quarters. The future expansion store is part of a $250 million, multi-phase redevelopment of the existing Macerich Broadway Plaza mall in the downtown, approved by city planning officials just last week. The existing Apple store opened in July 2003 in a 30-foot wide space that was adequately sized at the time. But like other stores of the era, it has steadily grown crowded with visitors. The future store will occupy a 75-foot wide space that spans a combined 13,200 square-feet on the ground floor and in a partial upper-level, back-of-house space. That would provide about quadruple the space of the current store. Light construction is now underway behind the barricade, and schedules filed with the city indicate the store could open in late 2015. Update: A commenter notes alternate plans for the space described here. But information about the move is authentic, so another space (Bldg. 6) is a possibility. photos

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Supported by the annual holiday shopping season, and buoyed by strong Mac and iPad sales, Apple’s retail stores posted record revenues for the first quarter of fiscal 2014, along with the chain’s second-best profits. The results came despite a leveling off of average per-store revenues over the past three years—Q1 now typically hovers around $17 billion, and other quarters range around $13 billion. The company itself reported record revenues, helped by strong international sales, including a year-over-year 29 percent increase in China revenue. The company reported revenues of $57.6 billion, generating a profit of $13.1 billion. Sales of the iPad nearly doubled from the previous quarter, and iPhone sales were up 51 percent. The retail store revenues totaled $7.0 billion for the holiday quarter, which is always the chain’s best sales period. That figure bested the previous record of Q1 of 2013. Profit totaled $1.7 billion, just short of the record $1.8 billion in Q1 2012. In a conference call with financial analysts today, CFO Peter Oppenheimer said the company remodeled six stores during the quarter and opened four new stores. He said 114 million people visited the stores during the quarter, just short of the Q1 2012 record of 121 million visitors. Oppenheimer mentioned Apple’s implementation of iBeacon in the company’s stores, and noted how it might remind a visitor near an iPhone display to check for upgrade or trade-in offers. There was no mention of imminent store grand openings, and no mention of how many stores will open during 2014. charts

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Apple retail stores participated in the celebration of the Macintosh computer’s 30th anniversary, with a special window display, commemorative black T-shirts and new name badges for employees. Steve Jobs introduced the ground-breaking computer in 1984 that leaped beyond the Apple II, helping to spark the birth of the personal computer revolution. As part of the anniversary celebration, today the company held a special music event for headquarters employees and posted a Web retrospective of the Mac’s development. The window display appears to re-use the LED panel installed for the holiday season. photos

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A high-profile consumer rights attorney has filed a lawsuit against Apple on behalf of three men who claim retail store employees refused to process their credit card transaction unless they provided personal identification, including their residence ZIP Code. That procedure violates Massachusetts law, the suit says, and the attorney asks for class-action status to represent all affected customers. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court (Illinois) last week by attorney Joseph Siprut, and claims the men have been receiving unwanted marketing mail from Apple as a result of the information collection. It also claims that Apple has been selling the plaintiffs’ personally identifiable information (PII) to other companies without compensating the men. Specifically, plaintiffs Adam Christensen, Jeffrey Scolnick and William Farrell shopped at separate Apple stores in Massachusetts during late 2012 and early 2013, and each used a credit card to make an unspecified purchase. “As a condition of using their credit cards,” the lawsuit states, “Plaintiffs were required by Apple to enter personal identification information associated with the credit card, including their full and complete zip codes. Apple would not allow Plaintiff to complete their purchases without supplying such information.” The lawsuit does not describe where or how the information was entered by the men. read more

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Despite the amazing architecture and spectacular interior design, there are critics of the future San Francisco 2 (N. Calif.) Apple retail store, including a labor union that’s already at odds with Apple over its choice of security services and its future headquarters building. In a 27-page letter to the city planning department, the Service Employees International Union — United Service Workers West (SEIU) doesn’t explain precisely why a labor union—usually concerned with wage and benefit issues—is focused on the planning process for a retail store. And in an email, a union spokesperson declined to provide an explanation beyond the text of the letter. The San Francisco Apple store will replace and expand the overcrowded two-level store that opened in 2004. Apple’s architects are now guiding the project through the city’s planning process, including several public hearings and private reviews. In the letter, attorneys for SEIU raised objections to the future store for a wide range of reasons. Primarily, the group objects to any attempt to bypass or provide exemptions for the required environmental reviews, calling the process “rushed.” But SEIU also raised issues of floor area ratios, window bird strikes and air quality during and after construction. They also raised the issue of a rooftop observation deck, required for the existing Levis store building but never constructed. “This is a key public amenity, and it must not continue to be ignored and discarded,” the union stated. Download (pdf) the union’s letter for many more details. read more

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