Dear Apple, it’s time to reboot your stores

Apple Store - for some reason we don't have an alt tag hereApple has had its chain of retail stores instilling the magic of technology into its shoppers since the first stores opened in 2001. I personally can’t imagine that anyone has never heard of or been to an Apple Store, but if you haven’t here is the idea: The Apple Store sells all current Apple products and devices along with a collection of third party accessories. The stores’ appearances can vary slightly, but the essential design layout is the same – grey walls, grey ceilings, a grey floor, and modern style wood tables to display product. Over the last decade, these stores and the products within had been praised for their simple yet alluring design. In addition, Apple has had a few stores that use glass as a primary base in their construction, such as the Boston store which features a glass spiral staircase.

While the design has held up well,  it is time to question whether or not Apple Stores will need to evolve to challenge the opening of its competitors’ locations, like the newly opened Microsoft Stores. In 2009, Microsoft decided that it had to jump in the retail store game and began building a new shopping experience. Without a doubt, the stores Microsoft opened are based on the Apple Store concept, with its own twist.

Microsoft Stores are fewer in numbers, so it is more probable you haven’t stepped into one. Here is the idea: The Microsoft store sells a variety of flagship products from HP, Acer, Dell, Lenovo, and Sony alongside flagship Windows Phones and Microsoft’s own hardware creations such as the Surface and the Xbox 360 with Kinect. The stores all follow the same appearance – bright white walls and ceilings, light wood floors, and dark modern style tables with pull out seating. The entire store is wrapped in barrage of brightly lit and animated LCD displays; some of which allow consumers to experience various Xbox 360 and Kinect devices.

Each company store has its own personal experience and feel that match their general product style. While the Apple store is grey and modern feeling, the Microsoft store is bright and adventurous. As a proud Microsoft fan, you might think that I am instantly drawn to its company stores. While you aren’t wrong, you might not guess that I also love visiting the Apple Store. Whenever I stop by the local mall I make sure to pay the Apple Store a visit and play around with all of Apple’s latest goodies. Since the introduction of the Microsoft Store though, the magic of Apple feels slightly drained. Something that not many people know is that I once owned a few Macbook Pros and iPhones years back – I was a hardcore Apple user (and semi fanboy).

Microsoft Store - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

So, what can Apple do to improve the experience? This could be looked at from two angles: the first is to leverage more technology in store to display its products. Apple has widely been held as a champion of marketing, with its beautiful commercials focusing on product experience – let’s bring this magic into the store and surround the customer with modern displays. Even fast food places like Burger King have begun replacing static paper displays with vivid LCD monitors. Apple has a lot of great products, but its stores seem to serve as a simple display and no longer a magical experience of technology as it previously had. Another idea would be to put focus on iPods and music, as its famous MP3 players just sit on IKEA style tables waiting to be picked up – but they don’t beg to be.

Another angle is to look at Apple products themselves. The store is a reflection of the product, so maybe it is time to revamp the conceptualization of its product design. When Apple released the original iMac G3 series machines, they captured the world with their bright colors. What has happened since then – has Apple lost its color palette? The only bright colored products you will find within the Apple store are the iPods – Macintosh computers, iPhones, and iPods remain bland. As Microsoft and other companies have shown, there is clearly a market for “colorful tech.”

What do you think – are Apple Stores fine the way they are or does the experience need to play catch up with its competition?

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Michael Archambault

Michael Archambault was an associate editor at Pocketables. He is a coder, a thinker, and a dreamer who lives on the "Microsoft side of life." His current gadget arsenal includes a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon with Windows 8, Nokia Lumia 900 with Windows Phone 7.8 OS, and a Microsoft Surface RT.

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4 thoughts on “Dear Apple, it’s time to reboot your stores

  • Avatar of William Devereux
    April 22, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    I prefer the Microsoft Store style as well (and no, I’m not just saying that). As an aside, Major Nelson recently interviewed the man in charge of the Microsoft Stores, David McAughan, on his podcast. It was a very interesting interview.

  • Avatar of Paul M
    April 23, 2013 at 12:01 am

    I have been to Apple stores in London, Cambridge and Arizona. Once inside you can not tell which is which purely from the style. . They are all Ikea bland.
    They are stylish only on the sense there is no style, is a blank canvas for showing off Apple products.
    When Apple first came along this was a revolution compared to most technology shops (in uk we seem to have distinct separation into camera, or phone, or tv/entertainment shops) as the tech shops tended to be a riot of posters and colourful product boxes. Quite often phones would be dummy phones giving customers just the idea of shape and size!
    Now, a lot of these other tech shops have scaled their displays back to let people experience the products. And dummy products are slowly becoming a thing of the past.

  • Avatar of copeys
    April 23, 2013 at 1:10 am

    There are such a thing as Microsoft stores?

    I kid… I kid.

    But, I haven’t heard of one opening outside the States. But, given that – I have been to Apple stores all around the world. I have been to the one in the Lourve, Paris, as well as in London, and all over Europe. Plus, naturally, the ones in Australia.

    To be honest however, the pictures you are using are not exactly great comparisons. The Microsoft store is open and has customers through it – the Apple store does not.

    The Microsoft store is how I imagine and how I see Apple stores – people all around the Genius bar and customer assistants everywhere and customers all around, with music in the background and a great atmosphere.

    • Avatar of Michael Archambault
      April 23, 2013 at 7:16 am

      “To be honest however, the pictures you are using are not exactly great comparisons. The Microsoft store is open and has customers through it – the Apple store does not.”

      You are correct. As a writer this was my attempt to have the picture’s represent the article. A symbolism of how the Apple store design might be “dead” in my personal opinion.

      Sorry for the confusion though. I won’t lie, the Apple store is usually packed to the brim. :)

      Here is an Apple Store in Chicago to support your point:


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