Apple opened its first brick and mortar stores more than a year ago. The crowds of people who waited for the grand opening of the Palo Alto and Tysonis Corners stores were legendary. Literally hundreds of people, some driving several hours and waiting in line at least as many hours, descended on Appleis new retail outlets. Some felt that if anyone knew how to treat a customer, it would be Apple, while others thought this was something very new and very different for Apple and Mac users alike, an Apple owned outlet where they could talk to real Apple reps, cara a cara (with thanks to Observer jr for the Spanish lesson).
43 stores later, Apple still seems to be able to draw a crowd. When the company cut the ribbon on a new store this weekend, in swanky Mall at the Millennia in Orlando, Florida, mall security didnit quite believe Apple store reps when they were informed that there could be a long line outside the store for several hours. The line started forming at 7:30 AM. By 9:30 AM there were 50 to 75 folks in line and mall security began to get concerned. The numbers started going up from there; by 9:40 there were 100 +, 9:45 there were 125 +. Mall security called for back-up.
Fortunately, Apple knows how to work a crowd; lessons learned from the master, Steve Jobs, have trickled down to store managers and district sales managers. At 9:45 AM the doors to the Apple store opened and a highly energized team of store personnel came out to greet the crowds, issuing from the store like a swarm of smiling, Apple logoed locusts; hands were shaken, backs were patted, laughs were exchanged in an electric-charged atmosphere that could have reminded some of being at a keynote at a MACWORLD. It was a blast to watch.
The Mac community is not a cult, as some news article claim, itis more like an extremely large and extended family. When you see someone who you know owns a Mac you feel a certain kinship. So, when Apple opened the store in Orlando, it should have been no surprise to see people whom we hadnit met in years greeting us as if we had just talked to them last week. Dan Bell, who was so gracious at the Tampa store opening last year, and who now works at the new Orlando store, recognized this reporter at first sight with a vigorous hand pumping and a "Glad you could make it, Vern!"
Linda Turner, Regional Director for the Eastern US for Apple, another veteran from the Tampa store opening, was here as well. "Good to see you again," she offered with a smile and a handshake. This treatment wasnit reserved for the press on hand, however, as Ms. Turner, Mr. Bell, and all of the Apple store employees gave similar warmth to everyone waiting outside.
You would think that, after so many store openings, a new Apple store would not be such a big deal, "This is our 43rd store," said Kathie Calcidise, Vice President and Chief Operations Officer for Retail Stores, "and the excitement is still there."
Excitement? Indeed! When the Orlando Apple store was officially pronounced to be open, the crowd cheered and applauded. Onlookers puzzled over the hoopla. "Whatis going on?" I heard a couple ask a security guard. "Itis a new Apple Store," he answered. "So, why are they cheering?" "I guess because they like Macs." The couple shrugged and walked away .
Some people just donit get it.
One thing youill notice when you enter this particular Apple store is that things are arranged a bit differently from previous stores, and it is a lot smaller. This Apple store may be the way many future stores will look. Instead of the two rows of shelves stocked with software leading to the back of the store where the huge screen is in most stores, this new store ditched the shelves. The software section is smaller, in fact, everything is a bit smaller, from the half-sized Genius Bar, to the two-station Kidis Area. Still, none of the feel of the original Apple Stores is lost; each station invites you to stop by and play. Most people will not be put off by the smaller size but some will miss the screen, especially at keynote time. Even so, the new store is Apple through and through.
We stopped by the store again on Sunday thinking that maybe the tide of people would have abated a bit. Not so. While there were no more lines outside, inside the store was nearly bursting at the seams. While we stood there oogling iPods, we watched a customer walk out clutching a new iBook to his chest and smiling. He was actually clutching it like a kid with a new toy.
Some people do get it.