Even at a company given to the routine deployment of magical superlatives to promote its products and technologies, Tim Cook went out of his way today to describe Apple's stores as leagues beyond anything so mundane as a retail outlet.
"I'm not sure store is even the right word anymore," Cook said in a talk at a Goldman Sachs investor forum in San Francisco. "They've taken on a role much broader than that. They are the face of Apple for almost all of our customers."
Cook offered a uniformly bullish outlook for different parts of Apple's business. But he lavished special praise on the company's retail business, where he said the typical store last year averaged over $50 million in revenue.
"I was talking to some employees the other day -- I don't have many bad days, but if I think I'm ever dropping down from an excitement level, I go into a store and it changes right away," Cook said. "It's like a Prozac or something. It's unbelievable the energy in our stores and to talk to customers and team members in there...it's a feeling like no other. We're continuing to invest here."
During his appearance, which lasted about an hour, Cook allowed that he didn't think Apple "would have been nearly as successful with iPad" had it not been for the company's stores, which he said gave Apple "an incredible competitive advantage" that rivals have been hard-pressed to replicate.
"There's no better place to discover, explore, and learn about our products than in retail," he said, describing the people who staff the outlets as "the most amazing, awesome, incredible people on earth. "It's the best retail experience, it's an experience where you walk in and instantly realize it's for the purpose of serving, not selling," he said, adding that the stores have also taken on the function of a gathering place "that has an important role in the community." "If you look at an agenda for an Apple store on any given day, you might find that there's a youth program going on. You might find a local musician entertaining people in that store. It's incredibly exciting what these stores do," Cook said, noting later that "people don't think about the Cupertino headquarters; they think about the local Apple store."