If you ask for driving directions to the Halifax Shopping Centre (Canada) Apple store using the Apple Store app, be prepared for a very long journey. Instead of showing turn-by-turn directions, Apple’s much criticized Maps application locates the store in the middle of Kazakhstan, a country almost 5,500 miles east from the actual location. The error was first noted in a Tweet, and is easily explained: the store is actually at 63° west longitude, while the Maps database locates it at 63° east longitude. The latitude for the store is correctly displayed. The Maps app was released September 19th and users almost immediately discovered inaccuracies of various types. Insiders say this week’s dismissal of Sr. V-P iOS Software Scott Forstall was related to the poor accuracy of Maps, whose development he oversaw. bad map
After six months of turmoil over management style and direction within Apple’s retail store operation, the company announced today that Sr. V-P Retail John Browett will be leaving the company. The news was immediately greeted with relief from many store employees, who have felt Browett valued revenues and profit instead of Apple’s core retail value of providing an excellent customer experience. In a press release Apple said only, “John Browett is leaving the company.” No explanation or timeline for his departure was provided. In the interim, the retail team will report directly to Tim Cook while Browett’s replacement is recruited, the company said. To provide some measure of confidence in the retail operation, the company added, “Apple’s Retail organization has an incredibly strong network of leaders at the store and regional level who will continue the excellent work that has been done over the past decade to revolutionize retailing with unique, innovative services for customers.” In an email sent to employees within an hour of the news, CEO Tim Cook reiterated the wording of the press release, and added, “This phenomenal team of talented and dedicated people works their hearts out making our customers happy. They have our respect, our admiration and our undying support.” details
Apple’s retail operations team is in high gear with the imminent arrival of Hurricane Sandy, closing down some stores in five states and the District of Columbia, while preparing for disruptions as far north as Canada. At least 35 stores are within the landfall prediction zone defined by the National Weather Service, and another 15 stores are just outside the zone, particularly New York City and the region north. New York City stores were closed and dark on Sunday evening, and sandbags were being stacked outside storefronts. The underground Fifth Avenue (NYC) store staff took further precautions for its underground retail space, cleverly wrapping all the display table products with white plastic, Apple draw-string shopping bags to provide water protection. The Upper West Side (NYC) store also has a below-grade retail floor, and its storefront has been surrounded with sandbags. Other stores in Maryland, Pennsylvania and DC have received similar protection against rising water, a particular threat to the stores’ maple wood display tables, and the floor-located electrical outlets. As of Sunday night, the storm prediction zone extends beyond the Canadian border, including several Toronto region Apple stores. Several stores closed early on Sunday to begin store preparations, but also to give employees time to protect their homes and families. The incoming storm is reminiscent of preparations ahead of Hurricane Irene in August 2011. That storm caused damage to an extensive stretch of the east coast, but caused even more damage inland long after landfall. interactive map
The nostalgia was thick at the grand re-opening of the Palo Alto (N. Calif.) Apple store today, as employees fondly recalled the 2001 opening of the original store and the frequent visits by the late Steve Jobs, who lived within walking distance of the store. The re-opening was particularly memorable for Steve Cano, the store’s first manager back in October 2001, who was seen frequently hugging other employees during the pre-opening ceremonies. Cano is now the Sr. Director of International Retail, and was frequently mentioned—at least in unofficial circles—as a replacement for former Sr. V-P Retail Ron Johnson after he left the company last year. Several other original employees were present, including many who have since been promoted to store management positions. About 500 store enthusiasts were in line for the 10 a.m. opening, including at least two people wearing white commemorative T-shirts from the original store opening. Several among the first 20 in line were identified as “scalpers,” hoping to buy an iPhone 5 and resell it for a profit. The new store is a smaller, near-twin of the Upper West Side (NYC) store, and next year will become the sister store of the Third Street Promenade 2 (S. Calif.) now under construction. All three stores stores feature a large retail space surrounded on three sides by tall stone walls and topped with an arched glass roof. The expanded Palo Alto store has about 16,600 square-feet, including a basement and a back-of-house space that includes a Briefing Room. The stone floor and wood display tables are standard, as is the off-green color scheme of the roof support hardware. The Genius Bar at the rear of the store adheres to Apple’s new 360° access concept, allowing customers and employees to work anywhere around the perimeter of the wide table. details
Right about now, some 800 Apple retail employees would be packing their suitcases and heading home from Phoenix (Ariz.) after the company’s annual Retail Team Conference. Instead, the conference was abruptly cancelled last week on short notice, and all the participants stayed home to put in a routine work-week. The five-day conference has always been a key annual get-together for top-level retail team members from around the world. Participants spend time reviewing store operations over the past year, attend training classes, receive recognition and strategize for the coming year. But sources say this year, just days before participants were to travel, they were notified the gathering had been cancelled. The sources said this week’s new product event was the reason given for the cancellation. However, they noted Apple has previously scheduled product debuts during the week of a retail conference without conflicts, including last year’s iPhone 4s launch during the Chicago conference. That raises questions about the real motive for the cancellation. Previous reports have documented various cost-cutting measures instituted by Sr. V-P Retail John Browett, hired by Apple earlier this year. The cuts were aimed at retail store employees, and ostensibly intended to streamline store operations. But sources said the motive was really to reduce retail segment expenses, thereby improving the unit’s profit margin. The sources speculate that this week’s conference cancellation is part of Browett’s continuing move towards a leaner retail operation. If true, it means that even upper-level, veteran executives and staffers are not immune to Browett’s search for cost savings. In this case, even with substantial no-show penalties for airline tickets, hotel rooms and meeting spaces, sources said that canceling the event would still be considered a money-saver.
The Apple retail stores continue to be a significant and reliable contributor to the company’s financial success, racking up a couple of records while posting revenues of $4.23 billion for the final quarter of 2012, an increase both sequentially and year-over-year. Store profit for the quarter was $848 million. The stores now contribute about 12 percent of Apple’s quarterly revenue and about 14 percent of its profit. As for reliability, store revenues have never declined compared to the previous year’s quarter, although they have fluctuated on a sequential basis. Overall, Apple reported revenues of $35.9 billion and a profit of $8.2 billion, strong figures fueled by iPhone and iPad sales, company executives said. Significantly, in the face of an eight percent global PC sales decline, the retail stores sold more Macs than ever before—1,109,000. Furthermore, the stores’ contribution of total company Mac unit sales also set a new record of 22.5 percent. In a conference call with analysts, CFO Peter Oppenheimer mentioned the recent expansion of the chain into Sweden, and the grand opening of a second store in Hong Kong, Festival Walk, calling it “our biggest store opening of the year.” However, he did not mention any future stores or how many would open during fiscal 2013. He did say the retail stores welcomed the second highest number of visitors for any quarter (94 million), an average of 19,400 weekly visitors per store. graphs
Apple is preparing to update software of its retail stores’ EasyPay point-of-sale system to incorporate new iOS 6 Passbook features into the existing mix of payment options, both modernizing its store technology and creating a high-profile test bed for the Passbook system. Sources say the update will also be accompanied by a hardware upgrade to the third-party plastic shell that contains a magstripe reader and laser barcode scanner, and possibly a switch from using an iPod touch to an iPhone. It will be the first update to the EaysPay system since it was introduced to the retail stores in November 2009. As first reported by 9to5Mac and confirmed by other sources, the upgrades could occur later this month, and will allow customers to pay for major products simply by holding up their iPhone screen, and letting a staffer scan a 2D barcode linked to a credit card. details
The building that now houses the Palo Alto (N. Calif.) Apple retail store is available for lease at over $530,000 a year, and will be available in March 2013 or sooner according to new on-line advertisements for the property. The building will become available after Apple’s store operations move about two blocks west and across the street, into a building now in the final stages of construction. The building at 451 University Avenue was originally occupied by Swain’s House of Music, a retailer that played a role in the early history of The Grateful Dead. The property continues to be owned by members of the Swain family. The Apple store opened as the ninth location in the chain on October 10, 2001. Apple’s lease on the property will expire on February 28, 2013, according to the lease ads that have appeared over the past week, indicating a possible 10-year lease, plus a two-year extension option. The downtown building is described in one listing as a “rare opportunity,” with 4,800 square-feet on the ground floor of the corner building, and 2,000 square-feet on a partial upper level. The official leasing brochure for the property notes that the building is currently occupied by an Apple store, with the notation, “Moving to a larger location” and a map showing the future location. The brochure also confirms the wealthy surroundings: the average household income within one mile of the store is $162,255, arguably the highest of any Apple store location. Sources say the new Palo Alto store could open by the end of October. Download (pdf) the marketing brochure for more building information and demographics of the surrounding region. lease ad
Lost amid the waiting lines, coffee carts and excitement over the new iPhone 5, barely anyone noticed the new window displays that employees installed overnight to promote Apple’s latest product. The new display is among the most sophisticated ever seen at the stores, requiring both video spanning and wireless synchronization. The displays were shipped to the stores where the iPhone 5 debuted days earlier, and then assembled and erected overnight by the stores’ visual crews. The two-section, seven-foot tall display consists of two iPhone 5s mounted on slim black supports. Behind the handsets are two, three-screen video displays that show a continuous loop of iPhone beauty shots. The impressive feature of the display is that the six video screens are synchronized, and the images flow between them without any visual interruption. Apple has used video displays previously in the store windows, but usually with just a single screen. video
While Apple employees in the United States continue to dialog about labor unions and improved working conditions, Paris store employees are in tense negotiations over increased pay and…a drinking fountain. According to sources, talks between the employees’ labor council and Apple have been on-going for several months, and with no agreement in sight, the employees are considering a strike for this Friday when the iPhone 5 launches in France. Many employees of the Opéra and Carrousel du Louvre stores have been wearing green “Believe” wristbands during the past few days to emphasize their resolve over the issues. If the employees do chose to strike, it would be the first such labor action in the chain since Italy employees staged a informational event last October to press for improved pay and working conditions. As reported by MacGeneration.com, employees at the two stores believe their pay is not comparable to other locations, taking into consideration the high cost of living in Paris. Beyond a pay raise, they are asking for a water fountain to be installed at the Louvre store where there is none, and for Apple to issue meal vouchers to offset the high cost of meals in the area surrounding the stores. Promotions and transfers are also on the negotiation table, along with the possibility of a so-called “13th month” payment, or annual bonus to employees. Some employees in the United States are also making note of working conditions this Friday by wearing green wristbands that say “Believe,”part of the Apple Workers Union “Day of Solidarity.” details
There may be an investment more attractive than a share of Apple’s stock—the company’s retail store properties. According to real estate sources, the property and building comprising the Boylston Street (Boston) store is for sale, and could fetch $35 million, a high price considering the size of the property. Some real estate sources expect the final sale price could be driven even higher by competitive investors who recognize the the reliability and attractiveness of the tenant, factors that tend to maximize profit. The high-profile Apple store opened in 2008 with a basement back-of-house space, and three levels of public retail space dominated by a spiral-glass staircase and a glass-curtain storefront. Update: On December 14, 2012 local media said the property had been sold to London-based investment firm Tribeca APL Boston LLC for $27.5 million. Rockland Trust provided $18 million in financing for the sale. Download (pdf) the deed transfer document, along with documents detailing the two investment firms that owned the building. read more…
The developer of a master-planned community in Las Vegas (Nev.) is rolling the dice, both hoping that the long-stalled project will succeed and that it will include an Apple retail store. In an announcement today, Howard Hughes Corp. said it has signed Macy’s to open a 180,000 square-foot anchor store at the Shops at Summerlin, northwest of the Vegas Strip. The developer also released a rendering of one section of the mall that clearly shows an Apple-like store, but without the usual back-lit Apple logo. The Summerlin project includes homes, schools, hotels, offices and other community elements that continue to expand since the project began in the early 1990s. But the retail portion of the project was forced to halt in 2008 when the economic downturn hit, with only structural steel completed. Today the developer said the project is once again a “go,” and the mall will open in 2014 with 125 shops and restaurants in an open-air format. Various developers have previously included Apple stores in their renderings, both real and speculative. In about half of those cases, the Apple stores turned out to be real.
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
Once again an important product debut keynote began with an update on Apple’s retail chain, this time showing the recent grand opening of the Passeig de Gracia (Spain) store and its overnight waiting line. Apple CEO Tim Cook walked on-stage in San Francisco to applause from the press and Apple employees, and within just 45 seconds a slide of the Barcelona store appeared behind him. He said the company had spent 2½ years working on every detail of the store,”getting everything exactly right.” He mentioned that Apple used limestone from a local quarry to restore and modernize the store. “No one would have done this but Apple,” he said. “It’s absolutely gorgeous.” At last June’s World Wide Developers Conference, Cook highlighted the retail chain at the beginning of his keynote to formally introduce iOS 6. details
As workplace changes go, it’s a small one, yet one with enormous significance. Apple has rented office space adjacent to the Rosenstraße (Munich) retail store, in response to employee complaints of overcrowding to their official workers’ council. The store is the only one in Apple’s chain to have such representation, in this case by a Betriebsrat, a legally-authorized representation group that is common in several European countries. The Rosenstraße store employees joined the Ver.di council in December 2011 and within months had an official office in the back-of-house area of the store. With the rental of the new space on the second level over the Vodaphone store at Rosenstraße 1, it’s likely that the council office will move next door along with some store functions. There is an on-going effort to improve working conditions at Apple’s stores through the Apple Retail Workers Union (ARWU), founded by San Francisco (N. Calif.) store employee Cory Moll in May 2011. Despite its name, it is not a legally-recognized union under U.S. federal law. Instead, the organization encourages open discussion of workplace issues among store employees, including pay and benefits, shifts and scheduling, promotions and transfers, along with suggestions for improving store operations. So far, none of the United States Apple stores have taken steps to form a labor union according to specific federal regulations. photo