SAN FRANCISCO — "Hey, did you see what's going on at Apple?"
That's the sort of thing Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts wants people to say to their friends about the company's massive new flagship store opening this weekend in downtown San Francisco.
And the answer will presumably be something more than, "Yeah, see you down at 'Genius Grove.'" To that end, the store is outfitted with a slew of new programs and spaces aimed at drawing people in for reasons other than just shopping.
There is a park-like outdoor area where weekend acoustic performances will be held; an indoor event space for guest lectures and classes; a creativity-focused version of the Genius bar that offers advice to aspiring photographers and music makers; and a "Boardroom," where Apple envisions startup employees flocking to learn more about Apple's enterprise offerings.
"This is the overarching vision for the future of Apple retail," Ahrendts said in a rare public appearance on Thursday as press previewed the store. "We will know we've done really great when it feels like a town square."
The company sees this store — a sleek two-story space with 42-foot-high glass-plane doors across the street from Union Square — as a testing ground for features it will eventually roll out to some of its nearly 480 other stores around the world.
Its opening coincides with a larger makeover of all Apple retail locations that will incorporate many of the same amenities. The Creative Pro desk — where people can learn more about using their Apple products for photography and art — will soon be a staple.
The San Francisco store's Genius Grove, designed as a quiet tree-filled replacement to the "noisy, loud, chaotic" Genius Bar, may also be expanded to some of Apple's more highly trafficked stores.
The stores will also get an overall redesign devised by Ahrendts and Apple design chief Jony Ive.
The emphasis on community makes sense if you've followed some of Apple's recent ad campaigns. When it's not showing off A-list cameos or knocking Taylor Swift off of treadmills, the company's advertising often features art created by customers with Apple products.
But at the same time, Apple has also positioned itself as an exclusive luxury brand, collaborating with fashion's biggest names and selling Apple Watches priced in the Rolex range. Ahrendts' hiring — a high-profile poaching from British fashion house Burberry — was thought to be part of this transition.
Apple evidently doesn't think these two mindsets — community-builder and ritzy tech fashion house — are mutually exclusive.
Apple celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of the opening its first retail store on Thursday. Originally the dreamed up by Steve Jobs and former Target exec Ron Johnson, they have since proven to be some of the most successful retail stores ever in sales-per-square-foot.
"We think of [the retail stores] as really our largest product," Ahrendts said.
Article by Patrick Kulp