Apple plans to transform brick-and-mortar stores into 'town squares'
Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts says the technology company will redesign 95 of its 500 stores and give them a new "town square" feel by the end of the year. Ahrendts publicly spoke about the revamped brick-and-mortar locations during an interview at Fortune Magazine's Most Powerful Women conference in Laguna Niguel, CA.
The redesigned Apple stores will employ new team members called creative pros, whose mission is to help customers with Apple Music, gaming and art apps, as well as help them learn how to take better pictures with their iPhones by using photography apps.
“The store is now the biggest product we produce and we have five new features [these include iPads, iPhones, Watches, Macbooks and Apple TVs]," Ahrendts said during the interview. "Accessories are avenues, and the huge digital screen in each store is the forum.”
Angela Ahrendts, the former Burberry CEO turned senior vice president of retail at Apple, has been working on redesigning the company's stores for several years now. Ahrendts seems focused on centering the Apple retail store not just around a consumer experience, as many retailers are trying to do, but around a community experience. The town square analogy is apt — even if Ahrendts lays it on a bit thick by comparing accessories to "avenues."
Apple has been already trying hard to move away from the traditional concept of a brick-and-mortar retail store, going as far as to remove all evidence of the word "store" from its branding. Fine, Apple, a store isn't a store, but can a "town square" deliver higher sales? In total, Apple's 500 retail locations generated about $42 billion last year, or 18% of Apple's total revenue.
Apple, of course, is not the only company reinventing the store experience, with many retailers trying to revive the magic of the store shopping experience. The "town square" concept is not necessarily unique, either: Interestingly, it was former Apple retail chief Ron Johnson who pioneered the idea as the centerpiece of his turnaround plan for J.C. Penney, which had hired him as CEO following his success with Apple's retail stores.
Ron Johnson's vision for "town squares" within J.C. Penney stores was somewhat different from Ahrendts' vision for Apple stores, but the idea of creating a community center of sorts is the same. Apple device users already have a sense of shared experience, and Apple stores offer a unique place for the community to gather. The question now is: Will redesigning the stores make Apple shoppers feel an even greater sense of connectivity?