For most people, October 24, 2003 was a Friday like any other. However, for tens of thousands of people from Michigan to Pennsylvania, this particular Friday held the promise of the new. There was electricity in the air that could be sensed for miles around, signaling the opening of the very upscale Legacy Village Shopping Center in Lyndhurst, Ohio. With it comes Clevelandis first Apple Store, the retail component of Apple Computer that first put its stamp on Ohio two years ago with stores in Columbus and Cincinnati.
The line to be one of the first inside the spanking new 30,000-square foot white, oak and brushed metal facility began forming the previous night around 8:00 PM. By the time the store manager, Dan Norman, began his drive in to work at Friday morning, local television stations broadcast news of hundreds of Mac-heads queued for the opening at 10:00 AM.
One thousand shirts by 11:00 AM
"We had a thousand [t-shirts] and they were gone probably by 11:00 AM. So I would say thereis probably been a good 4,000 people in here today ... Because itis been like you see now all day long," a tired, but excited Norman remarked as he watched the throngs of people inside the store seven hours later. "And then we have our major Panther event tonight starting at 8:00 PM, so theyill be lined up again. Iim sure theyill be packing the house until midnight."
Norman was right. The event to introduce the new Mac OS X 10.3 operating system, code-named "Panther," prompted a new line outside the store that stretched at least 500 feet around the block. However, it was difficult to tell which patrons were there for Panther and which were there to see the first Apple Store in northern Ohio. Legacy Village shoppers ignorant of the importance of the day for Apple enthusiasts continually asked those outside what was going on, inspiring many to join the line and enter the Grand Opening Sweepstakes to win a Digital Lifestyle Collection Apple values at US$2300. The Collection includes a 15-inch flat-panel iMac with Combo drive, a Canon PowerShot SD100 Digital Camera, a Canon ZR60 digital camcorder and an Epson Stylus Photo 820 printer.
One of the aspects very evident to long-time Mac users was the number of actual and potential "switchers" who came out as shoppers and store personnel. A switcher is a former PC user who has made the conversion to Apple and the Mac platform. Norman, the store manager, switched just before joining the Apple sales team.
"To knock it all down in a nutshell, I said the fact that when I had my laptop for four weeks and I used it and did not get a single error message, I was hooked. I was there!" he explained.
Photographer Sam Carrington, a shopper at the new Apple Store, is similarly impressed with the eMacs he uses in connection with the new job he took six months ago. "I just migrated to digital photography at the same time and Iim just trying to decide what kind of Mac to get for home now ... I donit know what kept me away so long."
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Appleis legendary efficiency and ease of use applies not only to its computers, but to its retail stores as well. Norman and his staff assembled their store in less than a week.
"When we walked into it [for the first time the previous Sunday] it was just the four walls and the fixtures. And between Sunday and Thursday, this is what came out. Appleis systems are almost perfect--literally. They have the systems down pat to the point of saying, iOn this day, this is what happens. On this day, that is what happens.i And it flows. If you have an issue, you have a direct contact to get it resolved and its taken care of. Thatis been the experience of my whole Apple adventure thus far. And again, that makes me excited about the whole Apple experience and who Iim working for."
Appleis systems may be perfect, but those at Legacy Village are not. In the seven days since the shopping center opened, there have been high-level meetings with developers, merchants and Lyndhurst city officials concerning the increased traffic and lack of parking. The shopping center was granted a zoning variance by the city that has backfired in everyoneis face. Now, there are not enough parking spaces for the 3500 employees, let alone for shoppers. This is a situation all have promised to correct before the holiday shopping season begins.
Legacy Village isnit alone in its growing pains, however, Apple Retail has developed a few of its own. Specifically, there appears to be no consistency in the retail storesi willingness to honor educational discounts. Several members of Clevelandis Case Western University SIGMAC user group have reported being told their student and faculty discounts would not be honored on software or all hardware purchased at the store, only online. In contrast, some of the same students report that stores in Columbus and Cincinnati have honored those discounts, at least intermittently. Posts on the LiveJournal bulletin board from around the country point to a similar problem.
According to an Apple Retail public relations manager, there should not be a problem at all. In an e-mail statement to this writer, she wrote, "Our retail stores honor educational pricing at the point of purchase. ... This discount varies by product, but does apply to both hardware and software offerings. For more information, we recommend that customers contact their local retail store."
There is at least one Apple User Group Liaison working on this issue, but it does bear watching. In the meantime, those eligible for educational discounts would be best served to call their local store or order their products online.