Saturday, January 20, 2018
Business

Apple shifts design of stores to lure newcomers and sell more to existing customers

SAN FRANCISCO

Goodbye, Apple Genius Bar. You are being replaced by a tree-filled Genius Grove, which will have more room to sit and more Apple customer service specialists to troubleshoot devices.

In May, on the 15th anniversary of the first Apple retail store, the technology company unveiled what it called its largest product: a new design for its sales outlets.

Apple's 477 physical stores are showrooms for the Apple lifestyle, not just places to buy the latest iPhones, iPads, Macs and accessories. As the company tries to reverse a recent slump in sales, luring newcomers to the Apple brand and persuading existing customers to buy more Apple goods and services have become more important than ever.

The first store with the new look — a two-story location in San Francisco's Union Square that recently opened to the public — has 42-foot-tall glass doors that slide open to expose the interior to the street.

Wide aisles, including one with special displays devoted to photography, music and other thematic uses of Apple products, give visitors more room to wander, learn and play with the latest iPhones, iPads and Macintoshes. An open space that Apple calls the forum provides room for presentations as well as small classes on various topics.

And then there are the trees. The back of the second floor is filled with ficuses, each encircled by a leather bench, where customers can wait or sit next to Apple's "geniuses" as they work on the customers' gadgets.

"We didn't want it to feel like a store. We wanted it to feel like a town square — very open, and everyone invited," said Angela Ahrendts, Apple's senior vice president of retail and online stores.

A courtyard next to the store, which has a separate entrance and is open to the public 24 hours a day, has more trees, a fountain, free Wi-Fi and seating for about 200 people. Apple intends to hold acoustic music concerts there regularly.

B.J. Siegel, Apple's senior director of design and development, says the store relies on solar panels for electricity and is using new cooling techniques to reduce the need for air conditioning.

Ahrendts, who has rarely spoken to reporters since quitting as chief executive of Burberry in 2013 and joining Apple two years ago, said the new design elements would be incorporated into future Apple retail stores.

Two crucial audiences for the new store are small businesses and mobile app developers: Both will be able to hold meetings and training sessions in an on-site conference room outfitted with the latest Apple gear.

The idea, Ahrendts said, is to make the Apple store a destination, not just a place to shop.

"We want people to say, 'Meet me at Apple,' " she said. With more open space and places to sit, including wooden cubes and large leather medicine balls, customers will be able to linger.

"The next generation just wants to flow," Ahrendts said.

 
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