Apple doesn't have any Apple-owned retail stores in New Zealand, but the company helped Grant Bremner open The Bay, an Apple Premium Reseller store that brings much of the look and feel of Apple Stores to the country made famous by "Making Of" features in The Lord of the Rings. TMO forum member Laurie Fleming was on hand for the store's opening in November, and submitted the following report.
There are a few things the United States of America and New Zealand have in common. For example, people in both countries speak something approaching English; in elections this month, new political leaders replaced the incumbents, both aged 47 -- in fact Barak Obama is five days older than John Key.
Some things are quite, quite different, however. The New Zealand population is around 4.3 million; US 305 million. US land area: just under 10 million square kilometers; NZ: 270,000. GDP: US $US47,000; NZ $US27,000. Men on the moon: US twelve / NZ nil. The All Blacks, the New Zealand rugby side, has probably the most best win/loss record of any national side in any sport; the Eagles, the US rugby side, is the reigning Olympic champion (albeit from 1924); the US has the World Series; New Zealand invites other countries to its sporting competitions. You say to-may-to, I'll say to-mah-to.
The Bay, a Premium Reseller for Apple Inc. products in New Zealand
The most striking difference to me, however, is the number of Apple stores. US: 202; New Zealand: not a sausage. Until now -- or almost. On Thursday, November 13th, The Bay, a third party Apple retailer, opened in Lambton Quay in Wellington. It's the middle of a credit crunch and retail downturn, but opened they did.
There's no point in starting up a store if it is no different from the competition, and The Bay is just that, different from the other Apple retailers in New Zealand. Grant Bremner, who with his wife is the majority shareholder, is a man with a vision. It remains to be seen what gap there is between vision and reality. However in the first three hours a week's products were sold.
About eight months ago Mr. Bremner contacted Apple to say there was a big opportunity for a branded Apple Store in Wellington. The momentum of the iPod and now iPhone has bumped up the public recognition of Apple in New Zealand to an extent that it is no longer perceived as being a producer of elite (but less-than-useful) gear. Grant suggested that Apple fill the gap. Apple suggested that he do it -- as an Apple Premium Reseller. So he did.
The local stores have been just that: stores. Around the corner from The Bay is Dick Smith, well known to Australasians as purveyors of electronic goods, but not otherwise with the greatest of reputations. Within twenty kilometres of here are three Harvey Norman's department stores, selling furniture, household appliances, stereos, televisions and computers - but again not Apple specialists.
In the forefront up to now has been MagnumMac. Obviously from its name it has people who do know the products and they're generally well trained and enthusiastic. The stores that this reporter has been to in Wellington and Dunedin, however, are a little tired and dated. They're not premium stores.
So what's different about The Bay? One of the most important things for Grant is carbon neutrality. His background is as a chartered accountant specializing in carbon audits for some large private companies. Building on his expertise in this area, he has chosen a carbon-neutral courier company. The net remaining emissions are an ISO 14064-compliant process: measure - reduce - offset. So far these emissions are offset by purchasing carbon credits, but the plain is to get involved in tree planting.
Choosing a location wasn't easy; Lambton Quay, one of the major shopping streets, has a 1.5% annual vacancy rate and new premises get snapped up almost as immediately as they become available. It's an odd shape, not perpendicular to the street, but in a bijou kind of way. It's how I imagine the larger Apple stores are laid out: very clean lines, lots of white, minimalist. And that's not surprising - it was designed by Apple, with its own architect from Melbourne.
The clean lines are reminiscent of Apple's own Apple Stores
A greener approach to selling for New Zealand electronics store
The first thing to notice is what's not there: brochures. As part of the approach to minimizing waste, customers are given verbal descriptions of products, and referred to Web sites. For legal reasons sales receipts are printed out, but everything else is cut back. The customer contact has to be of a high standard for this to work, and Apple has sent its international head of training to ensure quality. All nine staff have either passed their qualifications, or are in the process.
Everyone involved in the store has been keen and self-motivated, and that included the tradesmen who did the fit-out. They met all the deadlines, with the highest quality. and as far as possible, did the joinery with reusable and reused materials. Apple enthusiasts in the US have applied for jobs.
As part of reducing cost, they wanted a video surveillance system. They thought that with Apple's own software for capturing video, they should be able to do it themselves instead of spending a fortune getting something off the shelf. The details are sub rosa, of course, but it allows anyone with access to the security system, anywhere in the world, to view what's going on in the store in real time.
Everything is local and interconnected. The previous leaseholder was Living Nature, which provides skincare and cosmetics without synthetic ingredients: more of the green theme. The name of the company is taken from the famous short-story writer and novelist Katherine Mansfield's book At The Bay, written in and about Day's Bay across Wellington Harbour -- where Mr. Bremner lives. The accounting software they are going to be selling is Xero, made by a local on-line accounting company. The staff wear Icebreaker clothing made with local merino-wool.