retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Fortune has a piece about Apple's retail chief, Angela Ahrendts, who says that her company views its retail stores as, in fact, "the biggest product we produce," and one that is being evolved into "potential town squares within each of the cities they reside."

According to the story, "By the end of this year, 95 stores will be fully redesigned with this vision, the first of which were the San Francisco Union Square location and the London Regent Street outpost. The community aspect to each store is key, Ahrendts said, with these town squares serving as educational centers. For example, next year, Apple stores will soon hold coding classes for children in Apple’s programming language, Swift.

"The new stores have also been holding what she calls 'Teacher Tuesdays,' to help educate teachers on how to incorporate technology into their classrooms."

And, Fortune writes, "There’s a new team employed in the stores, called creative pros, who are solely available to teach customers skills such as how to take better pictures with their iPhone’s camera or how to use photography apps. They also help with downloading Apple Music, gaming and art apps. This group of employees is similar to those who run the newly redesigned Genius Grove, which is a customer service stand that fixes and troubleshoots Apple products."

Now, I took a look at the Apple Union Square store a couple of months ago, and was impressed. And while Ahrendts, who has a history in the luxury retail segment, is giving a new veneer to Apple's retail operations, I think that this community-oriented approach is consistent with how Steve Jobs and Ron Johnson conceived the concept 15 years ago.

That's what the Genius Bar - then a revolutionary concept - was all about. And the Apple Store always has positioned itself as a resource for information as much as a source of product. Which is very smart.

And Ahrendts' comment that the store is, in fact, a product, is extremely savvy ... and points to precisely how executives should think about the retail experiences they create.

Savvy, and an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: