The Apple store on London’s Regent Street opened last Saturday to a queue of more than a thousand people. Many of these Apple fans had braved a particularly chilly and damp November night, camping out on the pavement in the hope of getting a prime position, and with it a free limited edition T-shirt and the chance to buy one of the ‘lucky bags’ filled with reduced-price Mac goodies.
That explains the first 300 Apple geeks in the queue, what about the other 700? There was no opening sale, no brand new products, no celebrities to meet. Even when I visited the store on Sunday afternoon it was still heaving with excited customers, crowded round computer screens, chatting with staff at the Genius Bar, watching seminars and – most of all – shopping.
The fact is Apple is cool, and everyone from long-term Mac enthusiasts to envious PC users want to be part of it. With this new store, Apple has not just created a sophisticated flagship retail outlet for computer equipment, it has created an environment that perfectly encapsulates the Apple experience. The interior design is restrained, functional and beautiful, with no branding or promotion chaos; the glass staircase practically makes a visit upstairs essential. The sales desks are hidden away, making the products, laid out on simple wooden tables, the focus. It feels more like walking into a hands-on museum than a shop. The staff (who are all dressed like Apple chairman Steve Jobs) are numerous, approachable and knowledgeable, encouraging you to play with the products with no sales patter or pressure. This approach might seem like a risky strategy, but it works. Apple needs to sell a lot of products to support this store, but it is confident enough to take the time to make you really want them. Just don’t wear black when you visit!
The Apple store is at 235 Regent Street, London W1