May 15, 2001 4:50 PM PDT

A peek inside Apple's retail experiment

MCLEAN, Va.--Looking through a towering glass window front, an onlooker summed up his reaction to Apple Computer's latest retail experiment: "This is quintessential cool."
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  Jobs gives tour of new Apple store
Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple

Apple opened the doors of its new retail outlet to the press Tuesday. The store, located in the upscale Tysons Corner Center just outside of Washington, D.C., will be open to the public Saturday. Another 24 stores will open by the end of the year, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said Tuesday.

The store sports hardwood floors, high ceilings, bright lights and clean lines--similar to the look of the trendy clothing retailer Gap. The similarity is not surprising, considering Mickey Drexler, CEO of the Gap, is a member of Apple's board. The Apple stores are being built by San Francisco-based Fisher Development, which also constructs the Gap's stores.

Contributing to the clean look of the store is the lack of network cables connecting computers to the Internet, as Apple has incorporated AirPort wireless networking to link Macs and other products to the Net.

Most stores will offer 4,500 square feet, not including an additional 1,500 square feet for inventory, according to Apple.

The Virginia store is set up in quarters. The first quarter houses Apple products organized under the themes Home and Pro. The Pro section features Apple's line of professional products--Power Macs, the Power Mac G4 Cube and the PowerBook G4. The Home section features the latest models of iMac and iBook computers. Products offered in the store are the same that can be found in Apple's online store.

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 Apple stores to lure PC buyers
Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple
The next two quarters deal with what Apple calls Solutions--defined as Music, Kids, Movies and Photos. Shoppers can play with digital cameras and make home movies or learn how to create music CDs.

"You can make a movie in the movie section," Jobs said Tuesday, or "burn a CD right in the store" to take home.

In the Kids sections, tables are low to the ground to let children play games on iMacs at their own level.

Apple store Apple offers many software titles, stacked on black shelves, in a section called "Software Alley." In the same area, the company showcases peripherals from other electronics makers, such as the new Palm handhelds m500 and m505, Rio MP3 players and Nikon's newest digital camera.

These products were carefully selected by Apple, said Ron Johnson, who heads the company's retail operation.

Overall, Apple will offer six models each of handhelds, digital cameras, MP3 players and digital camcorders.

The back of the store includes the Etc. section, where Apple sells a limited selection of third-party peripherals, such as scanners and printers. In the center is the Theater, which houses a 10-foot diagonal screen for video and software demonstrations.

Also in the back of the store is the Genius Bar, where customers can sit on a stool and ask technical questions. The Genius Bar will be open for casual questions or for basic Mac service and troubleshooting, Jobs said. If the employee, called a "Genius," cannot answer a question, he or she can use a red "hotline" that connects directly to Apple's Cupertino, Calif., help desk.

The Genius, like the other store sales staff, is not your typical retail employee, Johnson emphasized. The workers must have "Apple-Mac in their bones," a "sincere service orientation" and "interesting hobbies," he said.

Interestingly, most of the Apple Store staff is college-educated. The store will also employ teachers as part of an outreach to local schools.

see story: What is Apple's future in retail? In addition the McLean store, another outlet in Glendale, Calif., outside Los Angeles, will open Saturday.

To develop the concept, Apple built a mock store in a warehouse more than a year ago. Most other stores will look similar to the McLean store, but Johnson said there will be variations.

Long term, Apple hopes the stores will build brand awareness and help Apple double its share of the PC market to 10 percent.

"This holiday season, over 100,000 people a week will (see) an Apple store," Jobs said.

 

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