Apple's Retail Upswing
Last quarter, Apple managed to turn a modest profit while other technology companies posted massive losses. This was no accident. Apple is doing some things right on the retail front, and other computer makers could learn something from their example.
I recently visited the new Apple Store in Atlanta's Lenox Square. Each new Apple store I see seems more impressive than the last. I had been several months since I had last visited an Apple retail outlet. The subtle changes were encouraging.
There was, of course, a large selection for each piece of hardware in the current Apple lineup. There were also many shoppers huddled around most of the Macs, seemingly enthralled with the latest offerings from Cupertino.
The shelves were well stocked with Mac software, but there was a noticeable difference from my visit a few months back. While the shelves were just as loaded with software, this time there were many more titles. Previously, there were four entire sections of shelf space dedicated to Mac OS X, and Microsoft Office (both 2001 and v. X). Now, the Mac OS and Microsoft's Office suites occupied one section each. The other two sections contained the latest Macintosh offerings from Corel, a company which was completely unrepresented previously.
This was the pattern throughout the software section. Adobe, Quark, MYOB, games galore - you name it, and it was probably there. Developers seem to be returning to the Mac as quickly as they left back in the mid-nineties, and all of them are supporting OS X.
Those of you planning a trip to the Apple Store in Lenox Square, be forewarned that the store is not listed in the mall directory. I had been looking forward to this trip for some time, so imagine my dismay when I enter Lenox Square, go to the mall directory, and see absolutely no mention of the Apple Store. Going out on a limb and deciding that I was not crazy (after much debate) and had not imagined the whole Apple-store-comes-to-Atlanta thing, I set off on a manual search of the mall. I started on the ground floor of this four-level mall and worked my way up, back and forth on each level. I found the Apple Store on the very top level (of course), across from Rich's.
During my conversation with two of the Apple employees, it quickly became apparent that the store's absence from the mall directory is a sore spot with Apple. Apparently, the mall only updates the signage quarterly and makes no exceptions. While this may seem like a sure way to drive tenants away, Lenox Square is arguably the most upscale shopping area between New York and Beverly Hills, and they are not hurting for occupants.
The one shortcoming of the store (other than the difficulty in finding it, which is not Apple's fault) is its lack of books. The book section is very small and carries only a limited number of titles. Since the release of OS X and the proliferation of OS X software, the number of Apple-related books has exploded. It would be nice if Apple kept a wider variety of these titles in their stores, especially for those of us who remember the dearth of Mac books just a couple of years ago.
I was also able to pay a visit to the CompUSA store in Alpharetta, Georgia. It had been several months since I had browsed a CompUSA, and I was impressed by this store. In a drastic and welcome departure from previous practice, virtually every piece of Mac hardware was represented on the shelves, even the eMac. They also had a good selection of Mac books and software.
The improvement was not limited to the Mac section. The store as a whole seemed to have more real computer products, rather than 1,000 copies of the ten most popular computer games, which was what the CompUSA chain appeared to be headed for as recently as a year ago.
Is it just my imagination, or is Apple's retail presence becoming more prolific? Have you noticed this in your local Apple retail establishments? Click on the email link above and let me know your impressions!
Steve Watkins is the Vice President for Information Technology for a mid-sized bank, an attorney, and an Army Reserve JAG on extended active duty. He has been a Mac user for about 12 years. He has owned some PCs along the way - but always came back to the Mac. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.
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