Just a Thought - More Stores! Should We Worry?


- September 21st, 2005


Apple is opening up another store here in Orlando!

This one is in Florida Mall, which is kinda strange because it is about 15 miles from the other Apple store in The Mall at Millenia.

I'm not complaining, mind you; I've always thought that the Apple Store in the Mall at Millennia was a bit too small, and I berated Apple for shrinking my store; I guess they are trying to make it up to me.

Now, Orlando has four major places to shop for the full line of Apple products; we have two CompUSA stores with Apple Stores-Within-a-Store, and the two Apple stores.

That's odd because I didn't know Orlando was such a hotbed of Apple activity. Oh, we like our Macs down here, and iPods are nearly as plentiful as anoles (those little green or brown lizards you see darn near everywhere in Florida).

I should have known that we could handle another Apple outlet; my little Apple Store in The Mall at Millennia is always packed, even on a Tuesday night. I guess that might have been too much of a good thing, and Apple decided to relieve some of the pressure on the wee store.

One thing does worry me, however; Apple has been busy opening stores like nobody's business, well, maybe like Gateway's business. You remember Gateway? They had all of those stores with the cow motif. I guess bovine inspired boxes weren't enough to keep customers coming back. Go figure.

When Apple first started opening stores there was the immediate comparison to Gateway, but, in truth, there were very few similarities: Apple hand picked the locations of its stores to insure that they would not only have heavy foot traffic, but also that the traffic be lugging heavy wallets.

Gateway, on the other hand, used the Dandelion Approach to locating stores: If it looked like a good spot to put a store, there you go. And they didn't seem to care how many stores were around; I believe there were 4 stores in Orlando at one time. I guess they were hoping that people would see the unique black splotches and say to themselves, "Hey, look! A cow flavored computer store! Let's go in."

Of course, we now know it didn't quite work out that way; and, as Apple began opening a small handful of stores, Gateway was closing big, giant handfuls.

Now Gateway does much, if not all of its business via the Internet and through vendors, while Apple has well over 100 stores in the U.S. alone, with stores in other countries as well.

True that Apple Stores are profitable, and that Apple's motto is that a store stays open as long as it is profitable, but I worry that too many stores will weaken the mystique that currently surrounds Apple Stores.

"Mystique," you ask? " What mystique? They are just friggin' stores, for cryin' out loud!"

Well, true that, Hamlet; they are just stores, but Apple Stores have got something going on that makes them money magnets. Even my little Apple Store has that certain something that keeps people coming back time and again, and usually with open wallets.

Is it the Genius Bar? Could be. I know I've had nothing but good experiences dealing with the Apple know-it-alls behind that counter.

Is it the notion that you can go in and fondle every manner of Mac and iPod available, all hooked up to great peripherals and accessories? Stop in any Apple store on any day and you are bound to see a lot poking, prodding, and fiddling going on. People who get stuff in their hands and have a good time with it usually are reticent to let the stuff go again; so they buy it.  

It could be both reasons and more, or none of it. But whatever it is, it is serving Apple well.

Maybe I shouldn't be concerned that the disease that affected Gateway stores might also infect Apple's. Maybe Steve Jobs is keeping an accountant's eye leveled on store profits, and an axe at the ready for the first sign of red ink on the bottom line.

Maybe I should just be happy that Orlando's big enough to host two Apple Stores, happy that I now have a choice to make: Do I stick with my little Apple Store or defect to the shiny new one.

Do ya feel my pain?