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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this a Thursday Eye-Opener on MNB Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

Fascinating news from Apple this week. No, not the fact that they have a new and improved MacBook Air, an improved operating system called Lion, and a bunch of new software packages. (Talk about innovating through recessionary times!)

No, here is the piece of news that intrigued me most of all.

More than 74.5 million people went into one of the more than 300 Apple Stores around the world...during the last quarter alone.

That’s more than four times as many people who went to either Disney World or Disneyland during all of 2009.

Now, you may say, that’s apples and oranges. (In this case, that’s actually pretty close to literally accurate.)

But the thing is, most of those people didn’t buy something when they went to the Apple Store. They were entertained, maybe even educated, they got hands-on experience with cool technology, and they got immersed in the Apple experience ... all of which makes them more likely to buy Apple when they’re ready to invest in technology.

That’s extraordinary. The Apple Store is, in fact, far more than a store. It has evolved into a cultural touchstone for a broad array of people. It is a branded category killer that cannot be touched. (Microsoft said it was going to open a chain of stores, but they’ve sort of fallen off the radar...testament, I think, to how hard it is to do what Apple has done.)

The lesson to other retailers can be found by comparing the Apple Store to most other retail experiences.

I was talking to a guy the other day in the food industry who was telling me about a great food store he’d been into that had a wonderful fresh food power alley...but once you turn the corner and go into the rest of the store, it instantly devolves into same old-same old. No differentiation. No clear-cut reason to shop there rather than elsewhere. And in so many ways, all the good will built up in the first minutes spent in the store are diffused in the harsh light of aisles and aisles and shelves and shelves of most of the same grocery everybody else carries.

And this in a store hyped as being fairly innovative.

That’s no way to do business in the current competitive environment. Every category, every display, hell, even every product has to be thought of in terms of how you highlight your differences and advantages. You can’t afford to risk being the same as everybody else anywhere in the store.

That’s the Apple lesson. Forget the oranges.

For MNB Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe...with an audio Eye-Opener for a Thursday morning.
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