Just weeks into the official start as her term as Apple’s new Sr. VP Retail/On-Line Stores, Angela Ahrendts is impressing veteran employees as both warm and genuine, and focused on the goals of expanding retail in China, improving mobile commerce and revamping the retail stores’ customer experience. As told by 9to5mac.com, Ahrendts has been touring Apple stores in the San Francisco region to gain inside knowledge, and has been shuffling some of the executive team to better focus on the future. Employees who have met Ahrendts say she’s “honest,” “passionate” and “so Apple.” But insiders also report that she has specific goals for moving forward—improving telephone service, Personal Setup and the iPhone trade-in program. The article also makes some comparisons between Ahrendts and her predecessor John Browett, who was fired after less than a year. Read the entire 9to5mac article for additional insights.

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Apple’s future presence on New York City’s Upper East Side has been confirmed by city building permits issued last week that list the names of Apple’s usual architect and structural engineer. The permits are dated May 15th and cover soil testing underneath the structure at 940 Madison Avenue, and demolition of the building’s interior, costing $20,000 and $60,000 respectively. The future Upper East Side store was first confirmed by IFO on May 6th. The initial permits were granted in the name of Apple’s long-time architectural firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, and engineering firm Eckersley O’Callaghan, which specializes in glass structures. Both firms have been responsible for some of the industry’s most high-profile retail spaces around the world, including Apple’s Fifth Avenue (NYC) location. Permits for the future store’s major construction, heating/air conditioning, and signage have not yet been issued. Download (pdf) the permit documents.

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Continuing the season of retail store expansion, Apple will soon begin construction within a space adjacent to the Houston Galleria (Houston) store to add 50 percent more space and double the storefront width. The store opened in September 2002, and was among the early locations that were sized at 6,000 square feet. Stores were later constructed with about half that space, attempting to fit more easily into mall locations. But over the past two years, both smaller and larger stores have been receiving expansions to boost visitor capacity. In this case, tipsters say the existing store will close soon, and move to a temporary location. Meanwhile, the vacant former French Connection store will be converted to Apple retail space, adding about 2,900 square-feet to the existing 6,000 square-foot space. The storefront will expand from 30-feet to 60-feet. According to construction timelines, the expanded store will open by year’s end. expansion plan

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The latest Apple store construction discovery is in Connecticut, a state that’s been granted a new store every two to three years since the chain began in 2001. According to a tipster, construction is underway inside the Westfield Trumbull shopping mall, a 1.1 million square-foot regional mall north of Bridgeport. The location is almost in the center of a 30-mile triangle formed by the existing New Haven, Danbury and Stamford Apple stores. It would be the sixth store in the state. No specific space was identified by the tipster, but based on construction schedules, the store could open before year’s end. map

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Goodbye Victoria’s Secret, goodbye Made in Oregon, and hello expanded Apple store. According to insiders, the Washington Square (Ore.) store that opened in November 2003 will move from its narrow 30-foot storefront, across the hallway and into a combined space that will double its square-footage. The 70-foot wide space will be created from the former Brookstone and Made in Oregon stores, and totals 9,946 square-feet. The expansion is part of an on-going project to remodel and expand about 20 Apple stores each year, all from the early years of the chain. The mall is about 20 minutes southwest of city center Portland, where the future Pioneer Place 2 store that will open very soon. The construction timeline for the expansion space isn’t known, so there’s no projected date for when the existing store will move. expansion plan

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For five months it’s been common knowledge around the Manhattan Village (S. Calif.) shopping mall that the Apple store will move into an huge expansion space, but the company has yet to officially announce the move to its store employees. Security guards, other mall stores employees and even customers seem to know what’s happening and have been talking about the move. Either way, the store that opened in July 2005 will eventually leave its 3,985 square-foot space and move a larger space labeled “Available” on the mall’s lease plan. For now, the construction barricade isn’t painted Apple’s traditional black, but that move could come later. If Apple occupies the entire empty space, it would cover 7,000 square-feet and could open by year’s end. Update: Additional sources confirm the store is moving, but into a different space that housed Pottery Barn, closer to the mall’s central courtyard. move plan

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Apple has added a São Paul (Brazil) shopping mall to its list for new stores within the next year. It would be the second store in Brazil, which hosted it first store grand opening just last February. In fact, it would be only the second store on the continent, 13 years after the chain was born. According to a tipster, this week Apple signed a lease with the developer of Morumbi Shopping, a huge 503-store mall southwest of city center in one of the city’s most affluent districts. Construction could begin within weeks on an unknown space in the three-level mall, meaning the store could open in early 2015. map

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Apple is rolling out a major upgrade to the point-of-sale (POS) devices that retail store employees use to process purchases, including redesigned software, a move from the iPod touch to iPhone 5s, and a major switch in vendors for the hardware device. The new EasyPay devices will support the chip-and-pin (EMV) technology that major credit card companies will begin using in the U.S. next year to avoid fraud and security breaches, along with NFC features, enhanced barcode and mag-stripe reading, and a physical PIN entry pad. As first reported by 9to5Mac, select stores are using the new devices now, and a full roll-out will occur over the next few weeks. The current EasyPay models were introduced in late 2009, first appearing at the Carousel du Louvre (Paris) store grand opening. The device used an iPod touch integrated with an Infinite Peripherals Inc. Linea Pro 5 “sled” to provide magnetic-stripe and 1D/2D barcode reading. The new devices are made by VeriFone Systems Inc., a public company headquartered in San Jose (Calif.) and once owned by Hewlett-Packard. They are a major player in the transaction processing industry with $1.7 billion in 2013 sales, and a one-third global POS device market share. Interest in the company has increased in the wake of recent credit card security breaches, including at Target and the move to chip-and-pin credit cards. Apple will use the company’s Payware Mobile e315 model with an iPhone 5s, which is nearly as compact as the current Linea Pro device and only one ounce heavier. The device costs about $700 in single quantities. The stores will also use a companion Verfone frame that fits the iPad for POS duties. Signficantly, the VeriFone device supports NFC contactless transactions, a technology that many consumers have dreamed of having in a future iPhone model. Now, having NFC in an EasyPay raises the possibility that one day a customer with an iPhone could make a purchase at the Apple store by simply touching it to an EasyPay device. Download (pdf) the device’s specification sheet. photos

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After a long pause of major crime, burglars used a passenger car to smash the front door and security grating of the Fourth Street (N. Calif.) Apple store overnight, and steal several products from the display tables. The suspects escaped after the 2:52 a.m. incident and police believe the car had been stolen. Burned rubber marked the spot where the Pontiac sedan jumped the curb between two parking meters. It was left behind about 20 feet inside the store with skid marks on the stone floor behind it. Several wood tables were bumped out of the way, but appeared basically undamaged. The glass doors were broken, but the adjacent taller glass panels were undamaged. Starting in 2011 criminals across the country discovered they could smash the front door of Apple stores, enter and rip display products from their power and shoplifting connections before police could respond. In some cases the burglars were armed and confronted security guards. In one case the burglars left behind their vehicle’s license plate are were later arrested. In another, an armed security guard shot and killed an armed burglar. The U.S. incidents faded away in late 2012 after Apple installed security gratings at about 30 street-facing stores, including at Fourth Street. But the Berkeley store was hit in July 2012 by a door attack after the security grate installation, and the high-profile, stone-faced Kurfürstendamm (Berlin) retail store was targeted in December 2013, seven months after it opened. In the latter case burglars threaded a small car through one of the entrance doors into the store. In Berkeley, police believe there was a get-away vehicle waiting for the suspect(s) and are studying store surveillance tapes for clues. Ironically, the crime occurred days after two men pleaded guilty to armed robberies of the Berkeley and nearby Bay Street Apple stores in March 2013. Court documents state both men will be sentenced to prison in June. Update: The store re-opened within 10 days. read more…

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The green roof is planted, the plaza stone steps are in place and workers are removing furniture from their construction offices at the future Pioneer Place 2 (Portland, Ore.) Apple retail store. The latest photo of the site also shows how workers will access the roof plants and the amount of glass in the block-wide storefront. The store is based on the new all-glass, floating roof design first seen at the Stanford 2 (N. Calif.) retail store that opened last October. Since this photo was taken the stone steps on the near side of the store have been completed. The store could open this summer. Click on the photo for a large, annotated version. [photo by Cabel Sasser]

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One day after Apple reportedly dropped its political opposition to a mandated “kill switch” for smartphones, the company has posted a detailed Web page explaining to law enforcement what investigative information it can provide, and the procedures required for obtaining it. The page reveals exactly what data is available from retail store purchase transactions, and confirms that store surveillance video is generally available only for 30 days. It also covers emergency disclosures of customer information, records preservation requests and extracting data from passcode-locked iPhones. The page also provides some privacy assurances to iPhone users that Apple can’t decrypt iMessage or FactTime communications, nor does it store user GPS location data. On the other hand, Apple can intercept and provide users’ email under a court wiretap order. Apple and other smartphone makers have been opposing a campaign launched by San Francisco district attorney George Gascon to mandate software that renders stolen handsets useless. Gascon’s intent is to end the market for stolen smartphones, and thereby discourage criminals from stealing them. The campaign stems from statistics that show 67 percent of street robberies in San Francisco and other cities involve a smartphone. Smartphone and cellular carriers generally want to apply their own solution, without legislative intervention. For example, Apple’s iOS 7 update in June 2013 added features that increased security, including a reset-proof lockout. However, Gascon believes smartphone makers are moving too slowly and that they receive a monetary benefit when smartphones are stolen. read more…

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A group of Franklin Elementary School (S. Calif.) second graders visited the Third Street Promenade Apple retail store Wednesday to participate in the company’s school Field Trip program.

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Are you interested in metal and stone, and helping Apple obtain supplies of those building materials for its worldwide retail stores? The company has posted two new corporate job listings for Direct Sourcing Managers for those two materials, along with a Senior Direct Sourcing Manager to oversee the operation. The company’s stores are primarily constructed of stone, metal and glass, and from the beginning of the retail chain in 2001 there has been nearly a single supplier for each material. But now it appears Apple is reaching out to identify additional stone suppliers and investigating new metal cladding projects. In addition, both positions will be expected to, “Drive pricing negotiations through supply base with support of Sr. Commodity Manager.” Since the beginning there have been few suppliers who could meet Apple’s rigid specifications for building materials. In particular, the glass for windows, stairways and other complex structures used at Apple’s stores are available from just two sources. Apple’s stainless steel provider has always been Kikukawa Kogyo Co. (Japan), while glass has come from Seele GmbH (Germany) and North Glass Safety Glass Ltd. (China). With the exception of a few stores, most stone for walls and floors has come only from the Il Casone (Italy) quarry. The job descriptions don’t provide enough detail to determine if Apple’s new store architects, Foster + Partners, made the new positions necessary, or if it’s simply a necessity from having 424 worldwide stores. Download (pdf) the three job listings for more details.

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Rumors and speculation have been wafting through Atlanta for the last six months about a future Apple store, and now it can be confirmed—the suburban Cumberland Mall northwest of the city has won the bidding. Apple will move into a 6,657 square-foot space on the lower level to display its products, and also occupy an adjacent 2,062 square-foot back-of-house space. It will be the fifth store in the region, filling in coverage for the affluent area north and west of downtown Atlanta. The Cumberland Mall is managed by General Growth Properties and is strategically located at the intersection of I-75 and I-285. It will be just a half-mile from the Atlanta Braves’ new baseball stadium when it opens in 2017. Based on construction schedules, the store could open by year’s end.

mall plan

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The basic outlines of the future Apple retail store in Nanjing (China) are now obvious , showing a tall, boxy structure, on a conspicuous corner facing a wide plaza. The future store is part of the adjacent IST Mall in city center, but appears to be within its own building. The store was first tipped last January and is part of the company’s continued expansion in China to accommodate increased interest in Apple’s products. Photos of the site show a seven-story structure covered in black plastic, and topped with a two-faced electronic billboard. A Gap store, future Ritz Carlton Hotel and Rolls Royce dealership are nearby. It’s not clear how many levels the store will eventually occupy—several other China Apple stores are very tall, but have just one or two levels of public retail space. Based on construction schedules, the store could open in early 2015. photos

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