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Just A Thought
by Vern Seward

Apple Store Envy
July 1st, 2003

An article on SiliconValley.com goes into great detail about Apple's retail outlets, offering some great third-person insights into the hows and whys of Apple's retail strategy. Putting great stores filled with knowledgeable people in high traffic, high dollar areas is a tactic Apple has been perfecting over the course of the two years since it opened its first store.

I remember when the Tampa store opened; we were still numb from 9-11, and a tropical storm had just missed us, yet hundreds of people showed up to celebrate the opening. The Tampa store is the 'typical' Apple store; it has large defined areas for software, hardware, kid's section, and peripherals. It also has a nice theater area where you can sit or stand and watch Steve Jobs give his famous keynotes. The Tampa store is not like the Palo Alto or SoHo stores, which are luxurious by comparison, but it is adequate for our simple needs. Floridians are laid back people. We only require access to the ocean or a decent pool, a supply of sun tan lotion, a ballot system that works, and a nice sized Apple store.

I live 2 hours from the Tampa store in Orlando, so I was excited to learn that Apple was putting a store in my neck of the woods. I figured my monthly trips to Tampa would end, and they did when the Orlando Apple store finally opened; but I was a tiny bit taken aback when I saw that the Orlando store is about two thirds the size of the Tampa store, and there was no theater section. Caught up in the excitement of having an Apple store so close, I ignored whatever ill-feelings I might have had due to the store's size; it's an Apple store and it's only 15 minutes away from my front door. Cool!

Well, now Apple has opened the Chicago store and I have to tell you, I have a serious case of Apple Store Size Envy. How could I not? Look at that store: it has two floors. Our humble Orlando store barely has more than half a floor! They've got an arena-seated theater, people can actually come in and sit as if they were going to watch Star Wars. If you could show a keynote in the Orlando store, we better hope there's a 23" display in stock. In Chicago, they even have classrooms with a garden view, a roof garden view at that. The closest thing the Orlando store has to a garden is the potted palm standing in the mall outside the store's entrance.

Why a roof garden? Could it be that Steve Jobs needs some quiet time alone on his occasional visit to Chi-Town? Now he could sneak out of a meeting and run barefoot through the grass. Very therapeutic.

The SiliconValley.com article talks, at length, about how well the Apple Store's appear to be doing. The author believes that Apple is on the right track with it's retail strategy. I beg to differ.

If Apple is going to short-change me in store space, how do I know I'm not getting pinched elsewhere? There's evidence that this so-called strategy carries over to their product lineup too. Take the new G5s, for instance: You can get a 1.6 GHz or a 1.8 GHz model, but the next step up is a 2 GHz -dual- processor model.

So, not only do I have Store Envy, I have Processor Envy as well.

I think I'm going to write Steve Jobs and ask him where the rest of the Orlando store is. If he can give Chicago 24,000 square feet the least he can give Orlando is 12,000. If nothing else he can figure out a way to show keynotes in the store without giving the customers eyestrain from staring at a keynote on an eMac, and crushed toes from having jam myself into that tiny store just to see new products.

But I guess pain and envy is part of the Apple Experience, too.

Sigh!

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

You can send your comments directly to me, or you can also post your comments below.

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