Despite Mother Nature’s best effort, the blizzard nicknamed Nemo failed to close Apple’s Fifth Avenue (NYC) retail store this weekend, and didn’t discourage customers from visiting the store. The storm struck Friday night with 60 mph winds and officially left 11.4 inches of snow in Central Park, which is adjacent to the store’s glass cube entrance. Inside, maintenance personnel mopped the occasional water dripping from the glass cube onto the stone floor. Outside, a crew successfully used a mini-snowplow to keep ahead of the snowfall. The epic storm struck the northeastern states, an region with almost 40 Apple stores, delivering all-time snowfall records up to 40 inches in some cities. (photo by Dan Nguyen on flickr)
After a nearly three-year review of 850 pages of supporting materials, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted trademark status to Apple’s retail store design, offering the company some measure of protection against copycat competitors. The approval came despite two application rejections by the government agency, including one that oddly stated the store design wasn’t “inherently distinctive.” In both cases Apple was able to submit additional materials and drawings that eventually convinced the USPTO examiner to issue a trademark certificate this past week. Obtaining trademarks is a common practice among retailers and, in fact, Apple’s trademark application included trademarks granted to several other retailers to prove the uniqueness of its own storefronts. The design Apple submitted for trademark status was of the so-called V2.0 mall store that features glass windows framed by stainless steel panels, topped by a back-lit Apple logo, stone floors, interior stainless steel walls and wood display tables. The Columbia (Md.) retail store was the first to qualify for the trademark, opening on September 23, 2006. read the details
Despite tumultuous leadership for Apple’s retail stores and continued grumbling by a segment of store employees, Apple’s chain reported record revenues and the largest number of visitors for the first quarter of 2013, and the second-highest profit ever. But even with the retail segment’s stellar performance, and record performance for the rest of the company, investors expressed disappointment with the results by selling off Apple shares, sending its after-hours price down by over 10 percent. By any measure, the past quarter was a difficult one for Apple retail, with the chain’s Sr. VP John Browett leaving in mid-quarter. At the same time, there is on-going pressure to improve store operations against a tide of increased visitors, and pressure from some employees for improved pay and benefits. Overall, the company reported revenues of $54.5 billion, a new record fueled by record sales if iPhones and iPads. Total company profit was $13.1 billion, also a new record. On the retail side, retail revenue totaled $6.441 billion, compared to $6.112 billion in the same quarter of 2012, which was the previous record. The stores tallied $1.557 billion in profit. Average per-store revenue was $16.3 million, the second highest figure in the chain’s history, while the number of visitors was 121 million, a new record. read more…
One of the long-known criteria for evaluating future Apple retail store locations is a proximity to a institution of higher learning, and it doesn’t get any higher than Princeton University (NJ). Perhaps that’s why an Apple store will appear later this year inside the Quaker Bridge Mall, about five miles away from that university’s 5,000 students. Job listings recently appeared on Apple’s Web site for “Princeton,” and now tipsters point to two spaces in the Simon Property Group mall, across from the Lord & Taylor store. Beyond Princeton University, the region is host to several international companies, including Dow Jones, Johnson & Johnson, Merrill Lynch and Bristol-Meyers Squibb. What’s more, the average household income for the region is at the top of the scale for Apple’s retail chain: $104.282, according to Simon. The mall plan shows two spaces facing a central plaza that could be combined for the Apple store. Based on hiring schedules, the store could open in mid-July. mall plan
A key player in the birth of Apple’s retail chain and a potential candidate to lead the retail stores has left the company. Jerry McDougal, Vice-President of Retail, said goodbye to his colleagues last Friday, sources say. His departure was explained as not work-related, but rather so he could spend more time with his family. Apple notoriously requires an enormous commitment of time from its employees, especially at the headquarters level. That commitment increased even more for retail executives after last year’s departure of Ron Johnson, Sr. VP Retail. McDougal was Johnson’s right-hand man from the moment the chain was conceived in 2000, and there was speculation he might replace Johnson. However, CEO Tim Cook selected outsider John Browett of UK-based Dixons for the position. When Browett was fired last October, speculation again focused on McDougal and others for the Sr. VP position. Instead, McDougal has now departed, and the company says it continues to search for Browett’s successor. An Apple spokesman told AllThingsD that Jim Bean, a 15-year Apple veteran, has moved from his position as VP of Financial Planning & Analysis and will assume McDougal’s position. Outside speculation on the Sr. VP position is focused on Bob Bridger, VP of Retail Real Estate and Development, and Steve Cano, VP of Retail. Both are long-time Apple retail employees. McDougal, 46, graduated from Buffalo State (NY), and received his MBA from the Whitman School of Management (Syracuse University, NY). He began his business career with IBM, and spent 10 years there before moving to retailer PC Connection in 1999. He was recruited by Johnson the next year, and was responsible for retail marketing, product merchandising, store operations, loss prevention and customer loyalty programs. He was a frequent attendee at Apple retail store grand openings and new product introductions world-wide. photo
Visitors to the Lincoln Park (Chicago) retail store were startled Sunday evening when a passing car veered onto the south plaza and crashed through the south end glass doors and into the east accessory wall. Police say the elderly driver was slightly injured in the 6:15 p.m. crash, which destroyed the right glass door panel, a smaller adjacent glass panel, a display table and one of two large-screen video displays. The car threaded the entrance, missing the left door and the main, 20-foot tall windows on either side of the entrance that would have cost about $65,000 to replace—each. No visitors or employees in the store reported being injured. It’s the first such accident for the retail chain, although several burglars have used similar tactics at U.S. stores to steal merchandise. Pedestrians often walk into the glass storefronts of Apple stores, including a woman who struck the Lincoln Park glass on the night before the grand opening, and an 83 year-old woman who filed a lawsuit. The company installed window warning stickers in early 2011 to help prevent the accidents. The store opened in October 2010, and is set on a triangular plot created by three intersecting streets. The south entrance is set back from the nearest intersection by almost 90 feet. There are no bollards in the sidewalk or plaza to prevent vehicles from reaching the store. Apple commonly does not install physical or visual obstructions in front of its stores, because they interfere with the store-visitor interaction and experience. In most cases, even existing bike and news racks, light poles, and even fire hydrants have been removed or relocated as part of a new store construction project. read more…
Even as Apple has reportedly cancelled its planned MacArthur Chambers (Australia) retail store, a construction company Web site has detailed the US$2.5 million building renovation that involved tight schedules, limited access, and materials that were both delicate and massive. Interior photos of the construction work on the 1849-era building show demolished walls and removed floor slabs, and also added steel columns and remodeled ceilings. The photos and text appeared on the SJ Higgins Group Web site as an example of their past work, along with a description of the complexities of working in a city-center heritage building. The project does not mention Apple Inc., but instead identifies the Precision Group as the client, a local retail investment company that also manages the adjacent shopping center known as MacArthur Central. The project description says, “The project consisted of stripping the existing tenancy fit out back to the original heritage fabric in preparation for the new worldwide retailer to fit out.” The work included gutting four levels covering about 21,000 square-feet, including the removal of escalators and elevators. Old openings were closed up, the company said, and new openings were created. “Lots of existing structural steel and structural components were temporary modified with temporary propping throughout to allow for this change,” the company said. After the heavy construction, the company said it installed new utilities and finished the interior. The Apple store was first spotted in April 2011 when building plans were submitted to city officials. Progress was slow, and then stopped entirely when one major contractor suffered financial problems. Construction restarted within months, but last November sources said Apple had withdrawn from the project. Update: Within 48 of posting this story, the entire SJ Higgins Web site was down for “site maintenance.” The Web site reappeared 48 hours after that, but without the MacArthur Chambers page. photos
Eighteen months after introducing an advanced retail store product information display that uses an iPad, Apple has filed a patent application for the back-end software that provides complex administrative features. The combination of Smart Sign hardware and software allow centralized control of price and feature changes, standardized store layouts and time zone-based updates and changes. The patent application was published January 3rd and includes diagrams of the software’s menu flow and structure, and simulated screenshots of the administrative features. Apple rolled out the Smart Signs in May 2011, replacing traditional printed paper information sheets slipped behind acrylic plastic blocks. The iPad-based signs are interactive, customized by product and allow store visitors to summon a Specialist for help by pressing an on-screen button. The Smart Signs were ground-breaking for their appearance and features at the time, and several other retailers have adopted the iPad for product displays. Apple applied to patent the Smart Sign design in the U.S. last November, and obtained a design patent in China in March 2012. Download (pdf) the entire patent application for details. diagrams
Police are investigating the New Year’s Eve robbery of the Opéra (Paris) Apple retail store, during which four armed men entered the store and made off with products and cash. One employee was injured during the robbery, but police did not describe the extent of the injury or say if it were life-threatening. There is speculation the attack was timed to coincide with the assignment of Paris police to New Year’s activities, leaving fewer officers to respond to crimes. The invasion robbery is among the most violent in the history of Apple’s retail chain. In April 2011 an armed security guard shot and killed one of two suspects who smashed into the Otay Ranch (S. Calif.) store. Both men had guns, and one fired at the security guard. In Paris, police said the suspects gained entry to the store by assaulting a security guard at about 9 p.m., three hours after the store closed for the day. Over the next 40 minutes the suspects loaded a large number of products from the stockroom into a waiting truck, and then fled. Products on display were not disturbed, sources say. No arrests have been reported, although police are viewing surveillance videos to assist their search. Local news reports say the value of the stolen merchandise could exceed $1.3 million. Police have only said that Apple store managers are taking an inventory of what was taken.
Visitors to The Passage shopping arcade in The Hague (The Netherlands) have enjoyed a decorated fir tree under the rotunda each Christmas for decades, just outside the Selexyz bookstore. But now that tradition will end after Apple has reportedly signed a retail lease on the three-level bookstore space, an agreement that requires an end to the tree tradition so visitors will have full visibility of the Apple storefront. As first reported by iPhoneClub.nl, Apple will occupy about 18,800 square-feet on the basement, ground and upper levels of the bookstore. The store will also occupy some portion of the adjacent retail stores, the sources said. The historic, city-center mall dates to 1885 and includes several international retailers and an upscale hotel. More interestingly, the mall is also home to Amac, a 21-location Apple Premium Reseller whose store is about 175 feet away from the future Apple store. Construction on the store cannot begin until the bookstore vacates the space, putting a grand opening in fall 2013. photos
A quartet of new Apple patent applications focus on retail product displays, including the iPad Smart Signs, locking 30-pin dock connectors, and dynamic signage content, all in-use now at the company’s retail stores. The applications advance patent protections already granted on several of Apple retail’s store design elements, and would prevent competitors from using similar tablet-based product signs in a retail setting. As first reported by PatentlyApple.com, the applications were posted by the Patent and Trademark Office on Thanksgiving day, and center on the Smart Signs that debuted in May 2011. Apple has been using acrylics for many years to display product information on its retail store display tables. But the product data was printed on paper and slipped behind the acrylics. The new acrylics incorporated iPads to provide a wider range of information, to allow downloaded updates, and to provide customers the ability to summon a Specialist for help. In the first patent application, Apple makes claim to an acrylic block design, its attachment to an iPad and the associated product dock. Two other patents related to special features of the acrylic iPad dock: an anti-theft, 30-pin dock connector for display products, and a low-profile 30-pin connector to allow compact attachment of the iPad. The fourth patent details the ability to deliver dynamic content to the Smart Signs based on their location in the store and the products being displayed. Download (pdf) the patent apps for much more detail: iPad dock, dynamic signage, locking 30-pin and low-profile 30-pin.
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.
Despite pressure from shopping mall managers, Apple has decided not to open its stores in the wee hours of Black Friday as a way of increasing revenues—and looking like a mass-market merchandiser. In fact, most U.S. Apple stores will open at the 6, 7 and 8 o’clock hours, and only a pair of high-tourist locations will open as early as 4 a.m. As in past years, many big-box retailers will open at midnight this year to offset lower sales during the continuing U.S. economic downturn. Many other stores will open as early as 3 a.m. to capture shoppers looking for deals. According to sources, management for several malls where Apple stores are located attempted to convince Apple executives to join early-morning retailers for the year’s busiest shopping day. They suggested midnight or 3 a.m. as possible opening times. But facing a constrained supply of new products introduced last month, and the probability of idle employees wandering empty stores, Apple execs decided to adjust opening times based on potential traffic at individual stores. As a result, most stores will open just two to four hours earlier than the usual 10 a.m. opening time. Several stores will open just one hour earlier for shoppers. Check each store’s Web page for its holiday hours. details
Apple retail fans in two vastly different parts of the world just received good news when they noticed retail job listings posted for Brazil and Turkey. Neither listing specifies a city for the future stores, but São Paulo and Ankara are likely targets for Apple’s international expansion. The stores would be the first ever in South America and in the black-out zone of eastern Europe/western Asia. Rumors and tips about Brazil have be frequent over the past five years, but Turkey is a complete surprise among Apple store watchers. Brazil is home to South America’s leading economy, and the country’s generally stable growth through the recent economic downturn has made it #7 in gross domestic product (GDP) among the world’s nation’s. Turkey’s economy has been less stellar, but 2001 financial reforms have allowed the country to largely weather the economic downturn. Brazil’s population—and potential Apple store customers—is much larger than Turkey’s, 200 million vs. 80 million. The education level of both countries is nearly identical. The stores could open next year: the appearance of a job listing typically leads the grand opening of a new store by about five months, or in this case mid-April 2013. As well, by the time job listings appear, construction on new stores is already underway. In this case, no one has yet reported spotting construction on either store. Update: TechTudo.com has identified the Brazil store as the new Rio de Janeiro Village Mall, in the area of the 2016 Summer Olympics venues. job listings
In a touch of irony just days after Apple retail chief John Browett made a sudden and unexpected departure from the company, the retail stores are reorganizing their third-party product shelves, a point of sale that Browett had passionately tried to bulk up shortly after he arrived. According to sources, the stainless steel shelves in the rear section of each store will now be organized horizontally, and by theme: Storage, Fashion, Creative, App-Based Accessories, Fitness and more. In addition the top row of shelving will disappear, since no ordinary-sized customer could reach so high for products. The new layout provides a more attractive appearance, visitors say, and makes it easier to find products. The change comes just as Apple begins stocking several new products, including the Hue lighting system, Nike+ Fuelband, and various iPhone 5 cases. These same shelves were reportedly the focus of Browett’s passion for increasing Apple store sales and revenues, leading to a revealing confrontation at several Los Angeles-area stores last July. read more…