TAMPA — In the market for a new iPad? Don't try getting it at the Apple Store at International Plaza.
The store is closed for remodeling through May 23. A sign on a temporary black wall covering the storefront tells customers to visit the area's other Apple Store at the Westfield Brandon mall.
"We're making this store better than ever for our favorite guests — you."
Apple officials have been mum about the project and didn't return messages seeking comment. A peek inside revealed the entire store has been gutted — floor, walls and ceiling included. The store closed March 31.
The Tampa store opened in 2001 as part of the first wave of Apple Stores, a radical new concept that changed the way people shop for electronics. The sleek, bright, modern stores became destinations for Apple loyalists and, with additions such as virtual registers, grew to define the latest and greatest in retail.
Gary Allen, a webmaster for ifoapplestore.com, a site about Apple's retail stores, said Apple is remodeling 20 to 30 stores a year, mostly older ones with wooden floors, glass partitions and the Genius Bar against the back wall. The newly renovated stores have more durable terrazzo flooring, stainless steel partitions and the Genius Bar pulled out so customers can access it from all sides.
"It cleans up the visual appearance of the store and, in terms of maintenance, is much better," he said. "These stores get a lot of traffic. The floors take a beating."
Apple has more than 250 stores nationwide and in recent years has focused on expanding existing locations rather than opening new ones. Last year, Apple tripled the size of the Florida Mall store in Orlando, not long after rival Microsoft opened a store in the mall.
The Tampa store has undergone two other renovations and doesn't appear to be expanding during this round. The store is bookended by Ann Taylor and the Walking Company.
Apple Stores have long been the envy of retailers, ringing in more sales per square foot than any other store. The latest research by RetailSails shows Apple had sales of $4,650 per square foot in fiscal year 2013. That was about $500 less than the previous year but significantly more than other top-earning mall retailers, including Tiffany & Co., which posted sales of $2,990 per square foot.
In 2012, about 370 million people visited an Apple Store worldwide. In all, Apple operates about 420 stores in 16 countries.
Susan Thurston can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 225-3110.