BusinessWeek Calls Apple Stores Zen-Like

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Been Christmas shopping? Even the most war-hardened shopper can tire of fighting the crowds just to save a few pennies on gifts that the intended recipient may not want. Stores like Wal-Mart during the Christmas buying season can easily be compared to midwestern stockyards, where cattle where herded before becoming last nightis dinner.

An article in BusinessWeek Online explains that, at least for shoppers of many high tech gifts, there are an increasing number of retail oases, such as Appleis retail stores, where customers are not trampled by other anxious shoppers, or bludgeoned with hard-sells by overzealous and under-informed sales people. From the article, Shopping for Electronics, Peacefully:

Consumer-electronics manufacturers are increasingly opening their own, far more Zen-like stores. They aim to create a new kind of shopping experience in which they not only sell merchandise but build brand loyalty, reap a higher profit margin, and persuade customers to purchase a bundle of digital products that all work together. Stores from the likes of Apple (AAPL ), Sony (SNE ), and Gateway (GTW ) are sleek, spacious, and staffed with highly trained sales associates. Interactions are meant to be soft-sell, and customers are encouraged to lounge on couches, take classes for non-geeks, or simply surf the Web.

A working model for all of this is the bright and busy Apple store in New Yorkis trendy SoHo district. Itis a gleaming modern space where 300 to 400 shoppers an hour can browse comfortably, take in a tutorial, or cozy up to the "genius bar" to tap into the wisdom of a Mac expert. Even though the high-rent space, free training, and expert staff mean a higher sales hurdle to reach profitability, "our SoHo store is printing money," says Ron Johnson, senior vice-president for retail at Apple.

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