In a world where retail stores struggle to survive, how does Apple thrive?

The Recently Renovated “Glass Cube” Apple Store located on Fifth Avenue in New York
Image via Apple

Retail stores are a dying breed. Nowhere else is this statement more true than during the holidays. While stores were packed with eager, savings hungry customers, they now stand as relics, ghost towns occupied by the scarce souls who firmly grasp the ways of the past. They lie as empty tombs, their wares undisturbed, unseen to shoppers’ eyes that are instead scrolling through products on Amazon. But there is one store that has escaped the retail holocaust unscathed. Its beautiful metal walls tightly hold countless visitors whose eyes are lighten up by wonderfully fun and inventive products. The Apple store became the Mecca for shoppers that it is today as part of Steve Jobs grand reconstruction of Apple upon his return to the company. When he took position as interim CEO of the company in 1997, Apple’s retail situation was in shambles. They had no physical stores, instead opting to partner with larger vendors like Best Buy to create stores-within-stores. While this did make it easier and more cost effective to open new retail locations, the strategy had many downsides. For one, the stores often had no set design language, so each one looked different, and, well, pretty plain. On top of this, many of the employees at these locations were not actual Apple employees, but workers at whatever store the Apple store was within, often making them less knowledgeable in the products they were selling. Steve Jobs understood the importance of a string retail presence, especially for companies in the tech space. They allowed for users to get a hands on experience with the devices they might be buying and this allowed for them to establish physical connections with products that could not be established in a virtual environment. The problems with with Apple’s retail approach formed the basis for the retail reconstruction and are still the basis for what makes Apple’s retail approach so effective today. Jobs knew that stores needed a clean, consistent design language that served as a backdrop to amplify the meanings and feelings released by the products on display in the stores. To accomplish this, Jobs worked with all types of designers to design retail locations that looked high tech and futuristic, yet friendly and welcoming. Job’s also knew that the stores needed to reflect and share the unrivaled user experiences of the products that were being sold in the, so well trained and enthusiastic employees were a necessity. Not only did the employees need to know about the products they were selling, they also needed to know how to help customers with any problems that they may have with said products. This need of impeccable customer service is what led to the invention of the Genius Bar and ensures that all employees in Apple stores are enthusiastic and well versed in the products they are selling. What it comes down to is that, unlike stores like Target, Sears, or any other failing retail store, Apple understands its not just the products that your selling, its the experience. This idea is what makes Apple Stores such popular retail locations. They’re cool to go to, they have cool gadgets to play around with and they make you feel like you live on a space ship. If you go to Target or Sears, you walk through seemingly endless and boring aisles, that may contain good products, but don’t provide a good enough user experience to make them worth going to over shopping online from your own home.

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