After working 10 months to obtain construction permits for a landmark retail store in downtown San Francisco, Apple is now trying to convince the city that seven tulip trees need to be removed from the side of the building before construction can begin. But even with a company promise to eventually replace the trees after the store is finished, officials of the city’s Department of Public Works were skeptical of the proposal during a hearing earlier this week. Apple intends to demolish a large existing building on a corner parcel overlooking Union Square, and construct a huge, cantilevered glass structure with two levels of retail space. The trees would be obstacles for construction equipment on one entire side of the site, the company said, and a hired aborist told the hearing officer the trees were not in good health and needed replacement anyway. But a DPW spokesperson has said the tree are mature, healthy and should be retained. Apple submitted plans (pdf) for the store last year that included landscaping information, including new trees around a refurbished public plaza at the rear of the proposed store. San Francisco is very serious about its street trees, and requires permits for trimming or moving them, and fees for removing them. The process includes a city inspection of each tree requested for removal, posting of a removal notice on the tree and a 30-day comment period. Any public objections generate a public hearing. In any case, a DPW hearing officer makes a recommendation and the Public Works direction makes the final decision—which itself is appealable. It’s not clear how long the hearing officer’s decision will take. Demolition has not yet begun on the existing building, but when complete it could take a year of construction before the new store opens.
A former professional basketball player was arrested Friday by police in Arizona, charged with stealing $14,000 in Apple products by pretending to make EasyPay product purchases with his iPhone, and then simply walking out the store. Rex Chapman, 46, visited the Scottsdale Quarter (Phoenix) store seven times over the summer, police say. He would take out his iPhone, pretend to scan product bar codes, and then confirm an EasyPay transaction. He took the stolen items to a pawn shop, police claim, and exchanged them for cash. Police investigators arrested him without incident while was driving his car, but didn’t say exactly how the theft was eventually detected. Investigators did say that the crimes came to light last month, and that several employees recognized Chapman because of his sports status. Chapman played NBA basketball from 1988 through 2000 and reportedly earned $22 million during his career. Apple debuted the customer version of EasyPay in November 2011 to counter criticism from customers, mostly well-informed, ready-to-buy types with no time to track down and deal with a Specialist. A buyer simply opens the Apple Store app, scans the product’s barcode, and confirms payment using their existing iTunes credit card information. The process takes just seconds, but is limited to items under $125. An EasyPay purchase alert immediately appears on the iPad screen of a store employee working “point.” However, absent any observed irregularities, EasyPay buyers are never asked to display their on-screen receipt when leaving the store. In fact, an Apple retail senior director once famously testified in a lawsuit that the stores didn’t have a theft problem and loss prevention was not a high priority. It’s that ease-of-purchase procedure that apparently allowed Chapman to take out several high-priced items on each visit that would have been impossible to purchase via EasyPay because of the price limitation. Chapman faces nine counts of organized retail theft and five counts of trafficking in stolen property, all felonies that include prison sentences if he’s convicted. Update: Here’s a list of the dates and amounts of the alleged thefts. Police later released an Apple store video surveillance clip which police say shows Chapman in the Scottsdale Quarter store. video
The days of enthusiastic overnight lines for the opportunity to buy one of Apple’s new products now seems overwhelmed by line-sitters hoping to buy iPhones and turn them into instant cash. This year’s debut of the two iPhone 6 models created overwhelming crowds, with hundreds in line at smaller stores and almost 1,900 people by one count at the high-profile Fifth Avenue (NYC) store. The lines were divided by store staffers into two camps: those who had purchased on-line and came to pick up their iPhone 6, or walk-ins. That latter category, supplied with cash by mystery men, seemed to be the un-enthusiasts. There was true Apple loyalty and excitement at most stores. CEO Tim Cook threw open the front doors of the Palo Alto (N. Calif.) store, while Sr. VP Retail Angela Ahrendts attended the debut at the George Street (Sydney) store. But it was perhaps New York City that epitomized the trend of moving from true product enthusiasm to financial gain, created by a staggered country roll-out and under-supply of the iPhone 6, which creates an opportunity for third-party profit. Based on that financial model and using purchase techniques honed in China and Hong Kong, ordinary people at the SoHo and Fifth Avenue stores—and at many others—were offered hundreds of dollars if they agreed to sell the iPhone they had waited days in line to buy. Those middlemen will then make thousands selling the smartphones to exporters who quickly send them overseas where the iPhone 6 models are not yet available.The practice has been common abroad for years and occasionally seen in the U.S. But this year’s waiting lines seemed to ratchet up the scalping, as documented in a video by Casey Neistat. His six-minute video profiles the SoHo waiting line, the heavy police presence, an arrest, and how the phones were bought two-at-a-time with cash and then handed off. Apple took action after similar paid line-sitting sprung up in China and Hong Kong for new iPhone 4 models. To combat the practice, the company created a on-line purchase, in-store pick-up requirement in China that ended fights among scalpers and broken store windows. More significantly, the purchase requirements ended the independent entrepreneur activity in front of the Apple stores, which the Chinese government generally finds inappropriate for its economy. video/photos
With the introduction of the latest version of its flagship iPhone product, Apple’s window display team has come up with a creation that is both eye-catching and subtle. The display is the latest in a series of displays that have won industry awards and fascinated passersby. For the iPhone 6/Plus debut, the designers created displays for the left and right windows using the same principle, but with slightly different structures. The displays consists of frames constructed of metal tubing, sized to the same proportion as the iPhone 6 models. The frames are painted in the three iPhone colors—gray, silver and gold—and in intermediate shades of those colors. The frames are spot-welded to one another, and mounted in a 10 degree rotation, creating a hypnotic circular structure. In the left window, the size of the frames changes during the rotation. In the right window, the frames are all the same size. As is typical, in front of the display there is a stand on which the two iPhone 6 models are mounted. Black lettering on the window calls attention to the products. Both displays are lit from three LED fixtures sitting on the floor, arranged to sequentially light the frames and highlight their colors. photos
It may be all anticipation and excitement for customers in-line for this Friday’s debut of the iPhone 6 models, but leaked documents reveal publicly for the first time how meticulously Apple plans such events to create a superior purchase experience. Screenshots of Apple’s plans posted by 9to5mac.com show there will be two lines: one for walk-in and another for Personal Pickup, both greeted by employees who are required to have taken the “Engaging Customers in Line” training class. Walk-in customers will receive an electronic Reservation Pass for their iPhone purchase, or a physical card as in previous years. Personal Pickup customers must have received a “Ready for Pickup (RFP)” email, the documents state. When the stores open at 8 a.m., the “Customer Journey” begins. “Provide a warm welcome and pair each customer with a specialist,” Apple tells its employees. The specialists should then, “Share enthusiasm and present a complete solution. Position accessories, Reuse and Recycling and AppleCare.” Employees should re-open the Genius Bar for appointments “when the majority of inventory is out of stock,” the documents say. The event plans also include instructions for when the waiting line disappears. “Remove the stanchions promptly if not required based on the line size.” photo
Apple’s annual product announcement this morning included products and features that will impact the company’s retail stores, including a larger iPhone with mobile payment features, and an Apple Watch that will require stocking and display space for 34 different configurations. Both products will rely heavily on the retail stores to demonstrate their adaptability to customers’ hands and wrists, much like the iPad required hands-on use when it debuted. The much anticipated event in Cupertino was attended by over 2,500 people representing the media, Apple employees and special guests, and ended with a performance by the band U2. Angela Ahrendts, Sr. VP Online/Retail Stores was photographed talking to Apple staffers near the demonstration building after the keynote. details
One month after construction on the future Princes Street (Edinburgh) Apple retail store seemed to be finished and the entire staff was hired, sources say the process is nearly back to square one. Instead of holding its grand opening in time for the city’s annual Festival, Apple’s traditional white grand opening barricade erected on July 10th still surrounds the store, with graphics that had to be replaced once because of weather damage during the delay. According to insiders, as of late Wednesday evening the interior of the city’s first Apple store was under major construction, with workers on scaffolding erected at several locations. More significant, none of the construction work appears to be near completion, witnesses say, despite nearly 24-hour work schedules. The current interior contrasts with just one month ago, when the wooden furniture was in place and the store interior had a finished appearance. The store’s staff also appears to be on hold. Candidates were interviewed and staffers were hired back in July, and they expected to begin work by month’s end. But now they’e been told to sit tight and await a telephone call from Apple, which a source says may not come for another six weeks. In the meantime, the staff continues to work their previous jobs or otherwise earn a living. One source has said the delay is partly due to an issue with the store’s flooring, which is likely the new terrazzo variety. The delay is among the longest in recent times, and mirrors the push-back of the Hanover (Germany) grand opening from last month, which sources say was caused by ground-water problems, mold and associated issues.
A southern California mall developer has posted a tenant map that includes a space labeled “Apple,” along with the notation “in discussion,” indicating a possible future store northwest of Los Angeles. The map appears in the leasing brochure for The Collection at Riverpark (Oxnard), a 650,000 square-foot mall is along State Highway 101, the main coastal link between Los Angeles and San Francisco. If the new store becomes a reality, it would fill in coverage north of the existing The Oaks and Simi Valley Town Center stores, and south of the State Street (Santa Barbara) store. Alternatively, the store might replace the existing Simi Valley store in the wake of waning mall visitor traffic at that mall, which has sparked a major redevelopment. Apple has previously relocated stores when the hosting malls suffered traffic losses, although usually the alternate location is much closer than 25 miles, as in this case. It’s not clear when the lease negotiations might be finalized or when the store might open. mall plan/map
In the legal battle over whether Apple has denied its retail store employees their breaks, a picture is emerging of the individual store personalities in California, along with photos of the some of the chain’s largest and most amusement-filled break rooms. In written declarations by store employees, store visitors were described as “upper class,” “very demanding” and “laid back,” and employees at the Palo Alto store said they had to stay on their toes for potential visits from headquarters staff. The lawsuit by former and current California store employees was filed in 2011 and was just recently certified for class-action status. In thousands of pages of legal documents filed with the court, Apple presented the declarations of current store staffers, who swore the company rigorously follows California’s labor code to make sure each employee receives their required rest and meal breaks. In those declarations, supervisors frequently profiled their stores, and provided staffing, visitor and revenue information. In another set of documents, Apple itself provided the court with photos showing rarely-seen views of store break rooms, some equipped with healthy-food vending machines. details
With its primary 10-year lease expired and its enclosed storefront blocking a view of the interior, the North Michigan Avenue (Chicago) store may be scheduled for replacement, according to city real estate sources. A story by Chicago Business says Apple’s real estate scouts are seeking a new location along the Magnificent Mile either to replace the existing store or to generate “leverage” in talks to extend the 10-year lease that expired last year. The two-level store opened in June 2003, and was the third high-profile store in the chain behind SoHo (NYC) and The Grove (LA). Despite the store’s age, it still sparkles architecturally: a wide glass-staircase, a roof-top training room overlooking an unusual green-roof garden, and a unique Apple-shaped cut-out in the front stone façade. The store’s location is also prime, situated along the city’s main shopping street. Some of the new locations scouted include 717 and 830 N. Michigan Avenue, just one and two blocks north of the existing store respectively. The story quotes former Apple store assistant manager Tony Marengo saying the store is “impressive but it’s no longer the jewel of the avenue.” Marengo now owns MacTutor Inc., a training company for Apple products. property details
A customer of the Pioneer Place (Ore.) Apple retail store who purchased some earbuds last month has set off a debate after he posted a Facebook entry claiming a store employee entered a slur in the place of his email address, and it printed on his purchase receipt. The Facebook posting generated Tweets, and eventually the attention of the Oregon Live Web site, whose stories attracted comments representing a wide range of opinions on how the slur might have been generated. Adam Catanzarite says the email address “email@example.com” appeared in the usual location under his name on his paper copy of the receipt for the earbuds. In fact, Catanzarite says, he declined to provide an email address when asked by the Apple store employee. He left the store and paid no attention to the receipt until days later, he says. Catanzarite then contacted a manager at the store to complain, but says he received no satisfaction. He then went public with his complaint. Catanzarite identifies himself as queer, and works at the Cascade AIDS Project as an HIV prevention specialist. receipt
A former Apple retail store employee has used his famous name to spark eBay bidding on one of his old company T-shirts and his official business card, raising $2,653 for a local charity. Bidding closed this evening for the item auctioned by Sam Sung, who worked at the Pacific Centre (Vancouver) store. There were 78 official bids on the blue logo T-shirt, a white store lanyard and Sung’s business card, all autographed under glass in a dark wood frame. Bidding originally reached $80,200 over the 10-day auction, but Sung quickly noticed that many bidders had no prior history and didn’t respond to his email requests for bid verification. He cancelled 28 bids, making the winner someone who bid within the last five hours of the auction. On the item’s eBay page, Sung said the auction proceeds will go to Children’s Wish BC/Yukon. Sung became an Internet celebrity in November 2012 when a photo of his business card appeared on-line, drawing attention to the irony of a “SamSung” working at an Apple store. photo
In a major move to bring retail stores to another significant region of the globe, Apple has posted retail job listings for the United Arab Emirates. There is no indication of exactly where the store will open in the country, but hiring schedules predict the store is already under construction and could open by February 2015. The UAE is a country of nine million residents along the Persian Gulf, and its economy and technical sophistication rank very high on a global scale. Up to 85 percent of the country’s residents are expatriates from other countries, and it hosts millions of tourists each year, making it a perfect Apple store target. There are many potential locations for the future store in the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, both with upscale, multi-level shopping malls. The job listings appeared yesterday, and include the full range of store positions from Store and Market Leader, Manager, Expert, Creative and Specialist. The listings also include the Apple Store Leader Program, a 24-month development program for those who have just graduated from higher education. The positions join those previously-posted for the region, including Facilities Manager, Business Affairs Manager and Senior Managing Producer. View the complete list of UAE job positions. Update: Four days after this story a middle-east blog said the store would be located at the Mall of the Emirates, and that it will be the chain’s largest. map
The Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Police Department has arrested seven employees of an Apple and Best Buy store and charged them with stealing over $500,000 in merchandise by manipulating Apple’s product exchange procedures, allowing stolen and locked iPhones to be exchanged for refurbished ones. Six suspects were arrested yesterday and police have issued a warrant for the remaining suspect. Police say they were contacted by Apple’s loss prevention team, which had noticed an unusally high number of exchanges at the Galleria Mall store. During their investigation, police say they identified six Apple store employees who were participating in the scheme, and one employee from a Best Buy Mobile store in nearby Sunrise. According to a press release, the Apple store employees processed nearly 600 iPhone exchanges. Police have not yet identified the people who were bringing in the stolen and locked iPhones, but that Apple store employees were paid $45 to $75 for each exchange they processed, or up to $45,000 total. The criminal allegations sound similar to claims made by anonymous store employees in a series of revelations to various Web sites in December 2012. The FLPD statement did not say how long this recent fraud had been occurring. details/mug shots
Several new job positions posted over the past two month are providing insights into Apple’s new focus on using social media to boost retail store interactions and sales, including a store event manager and world-wide loyalty manager. The new positions appear to supplement the position of Digital Marketing Director filled by former Nike-exec Musa Tariq last week, signaling the company’s expanded use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media to communicate with existing and potential customers. The Senior Event Manager is responsible for delivering, “an overarching brand story; in-store, online, via events, content marketing programs, by creating experiential marketing moments that deliver exceptional brand building experiences for our customers.” The job is also about “community,” by building and implementing “a global, targeted strategy with an emphasis on core strategic markets and introducing the brand in emerging markets,” the job description says. A second new job position is for a Program Manager – Loyalty, Global Retail Marketing. “Your role will be to design, implement, and support new learning and service strategies, and to ensure that the Apple brand is top of mind from ideation to execution,” the job description says. “With your Retail partners, you will help Apple reach its broader goals of deepening customer loyalty and fostering community.” Within the past two months Apple has also posted the new positions of Sr. Manager, People and Performance; a Manufacturing Design Engineer for Retail Displays; a Business Analyst – Point-of-Sale; and a Retail Merchandising Analyst – Accessories. Download (pdf) the full list of recent new job descriptions for more insights into Apple’s future plans, or visit Apple’s jobs Web page.