Apple is expanding its program of free Today at Apple sessions, allowing store visitors to learn about creative skills such as photography, video, music, coding, app development and art and design, among other things, according to a company press release.
The sessions are collected into three formats: Skills, for people interested in learning creative techniques on Apple products; Walks, which invite customers to join an employee to apply skills in the real world; and Labs, which allow participants to practice techniques on their own projects.
Apple has hosted a total of about 18,000 sessions per week since launching Today at Apple two years ago, according to the company.
The Today at Apple sessions go a long way to deliver on a notion that Apple embraced a few years ago — that its stores (which it doesn’t want anyone to call stores) should be more like gathering and enrichment centers for the local communities where they are located.
The sessions have proven pretty popular, with millions of consumers having participated in them, according to the company. Apple is now adding more structure to a program that has been loosely organized until now. Among other things, this may make the sessions easier to promote, which would help Apple ensure the viability of its store-as-town-square model. And with iPhone revenue declining, according to Apple earnings reported Tuesday, the company may be looking for growth energy in another area.
Many retailers have embraced their own spin on this store concept. Sephora, for example, has created the Studio store model, which features experiential programs, beauty classes and concierge service. Elsewhere, Foot Locker is expanding "Power Stores," Nike launched a House of Innovation flagship in New York and Joann introduced a concept store with community learning spaces.
These are just some of the many approaches various retailers have taken to redefining traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Sometimes they do this by adding more free experiences, designing stores around novel concepts or packing them with an abundance of new technology features. Sometimes they do all of the above.