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Exclusive: Apple to test expanded retail store format in Westchester Mall

post #1 of 11
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Apple Computer's retail segment is facing a rather enviable problem these days -- as the company's appeal continues to rise so does the traffic at its retail store locations, making some of its earlier stores unfit for today's crowds.

The Cupertino, Calif-based company now operates over 100 stores worldwide and plans to roll-out at least another 20 by the end of the calendar year. In effect, Apple is launching one new retail store almost every 10 days.

But some of the earlier Apple stores are struggling to keep up with the company's new found success, due largely in part to the iPod. On most weekends, Apple stores located in highly trafficked shopping malls are barely able to accommodate the foot traffic of the purchase-happy patrons.

"Frankly, after a couple of hours on a busy weekend, our store starts to smell because of the masses of bodies flocking in and out," one Apple employee said. "Some of the stores are just too crowded on the weekends."

For these reasons, and then some, rumor has it that Apple is looking to expand several of its early retail stores, in addition to remodeling others. In many malls across the US, Apple is looking to upgrade the size of its store locations or secure a lease for an adjacent store in order to expand into adjacent areas.

The company currently categorizes its existing stores into five distinct footprints: mini-small, mini-large, 30-foot, 45-foot, and flagship. The 30 and 45-foot designations pertain to the approximate width of the storefronts, while flagships are the largest of stores and minis, well, the smallest. However, in about a month Apple will launch a completely new Apple store footprint at the Westchester Mall in White Plains, New York.

For nearly three years, the Westchester Mall -- arguably one of the highest class shopping centers in the US -- has housed an Apple retail store. But the ordinary 30-foot second-floor location, Apple Store #37 (or R061), often ranks amongst the top 10 US-based Apple store locations in terms of volume sales; it will soon give way to a store double its size.

Estimated to be at least 60-feet wide, the new Westchester location will open directly adjacent to the existing Apple retail location, occupying the former retail spots of both The Body Shop and KB Toys. Once it's open for business, the existing location will be passed off to another retailer.

The new Westchester Apple store may be a bit more than just a space expansion. Sources believe the vast location -- the largest to hit a mall or shopping center -- will act as a test store for an entirely new design layout. While we don't have all the details yet, sources say some of the highlights will include an Apple Studio with Creative Bar and a much expanded Genius Bar.

Open images in new window for larger view. The current (left) and expanded Apple retail stores.Images: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Like its Genius Bar service, Apple is experiencing great success with its in-store Studios, which offer hands-on training for "anything Apple." The Studios hold small, progressive classes that are taught by Apple experts for a fee. During open Studio hours, customers can also swing by for help with their individual Mac projects. In fact, the company likes the idea of these Studios so much that it plans to spend millions to bring them to a significant number of its existing stores.

In most cases, the more-personal Studios will replace the less intimate Theaters, which are prominent in a significant number of earlier Apple stores. Already, workers can be seen tackling the task at the company's North Michigan Ave flagship location in Chicago. One-third of the store's second floor and its entire theater area are said to be under renovations.

According to sources, similar Theater to Studio renovations are destined for "several dozen" Apple stores.

ifoAppleStore's Gary Allen helped contribute to this report.
post #2 of 11
I'm not sure about replacing theatres with studios but Apple probably know what they're doing. I've only ever been to the Apple Regent store so can't comment too much but it's always very busy and is definitely a flagship.

I do love the way you can walk in sit down charge your laptop and surf for free without worry of being harassed - or asked to buy something.
post #3 of 11
This is very good news for Apple as the Apple Stores are one of the major factors in Apple's future success. As everyone who has helped someone switch to a Mac knows, you have to explain a Mac in order to sell it. The customer has to have a knowledgeable Mac user available to take the time to show a few things (like iLife), explain that there are plenty of apps available and point out that malware is not experienced on a Mac. Not something that happens at BestBuy.
Ken
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Ken
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post #4 of 11
Exactly it's the experience - you have to show someone a Mac.
post #5 of 11
Expanding too fast is one of the pitfalls in business. Beware Apple, just keep it under control. As long as apple keeps focused on there products it is fine by me. Glad the foot trafic is so good.
Why do so many Sys Admins hate the Mac? . A q u a M a c .
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Why do so many Sys Admins hate the Mac? . A q u a M a c .
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post #6 of 11
Quote:
Originally posted by AquaMac
Expanding too fast is one of the pitfalls in business. Beware Apple, just keep it under control. As long as apple keeps focused on there products it is fine by me. Glad the foot trafic is so good.

For their size compared to user base they're not expanding that much at all. In England we still only have two Apple stores - one is about to open near me - it will be 45 minutes away by car - not very close.
post #7 of 11
The theatre in the NMA store is reopened. The expanded seating section is now closer to the presenter, and there are power outlets in the seating area.

The studio opens Tuesday along with a new second floor cash rap. The whole second floor software and accessories section has also been reconfigured. Its going to be really nice when its all finished up tuesday.
post #8 of 11
The Austin store, which is a 30 foot I believe, has been uncomfortably crowded the last three times I've been there, even in the middle of the day, on a weekday. I really hope it gets slated to at least expand to the 45 foot plan if not the 60. They need room for more registers, as it's annoying to stand in line for 20 minutes to buy a software box, or an iPod accessory. Something that might help would be "express lanes" for smaller $ purchases, because folks buying $1500.00 worth of computer kit tend to spend a while at the register.

Do what you will, but harm none.

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Do what you will, but harm none.

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post #9 of 11
Quote:
Originally posted by chris v
The Austin store, which is a 30 foot I believe, has been uncomfortably crowded the last three times I've been there, even in the middle of the day, on a weekday. I really hope it gets slated to at least expand to the 45 foot plan if not the 60. They need room for more registers, as it's annoying to stand in line for 20 minutes to buy a software box, or an iPod accessory. Something that might help would be "express lanes" for smaller $ purchases, because folks buying $1500.00 worth of computer kit tend to spend a while at the register.

If anything, people spending $1500+ should get an express lane. I hate having to make people wait in line at the cash wrap after selling them a computer.
post #10 of 11
Quote:
Originally posted by sirhexadecimal
If anything, people spending $1500+ should get an express lane. I hate having to make people wait in line at the cash wrap after selling them a computer.

It's a problem either way. The last time I went to the Apple store, it was to buy 10.4, and I ended up in line behind someone buying a whole cart full of stuff--iMac G5, printer, something else large-- and the sales guy took 5 minutes going over his Applecare warranty, where to call, etc. while I stood there. Granted, this should all have been done prior to the check-out, but if someone buying 2 grand worth of stuff has questions, you answer them, I hope.

Do what you will, but harm none.

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Do what you will, but harm none.

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post #11 of 11
Quote:
Originally posted by chris v
It's a problem either way. The last time I went to the Apple store, it was to buy 10.4, and I ended up in line behind someone buying a whole cart full of stuff--iMac G5, printer, something else large-- and the sales guy took 5 minutes going over his Applecare warranty, where to call, etc. while I stood there. Granted, this should all have been done prior to the check-out, but if someone buying 2 grand worth of stuff has questions, you answer them, I hope.

Naturally, although i can't speak for all of apple retail's employees.
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