It’s been a trying year for Apple as the brand continues to shape its post-Jobs identity and competitors become increasingly tenacious, emboldened by a marketplace no longer totally mesmerized by Apple’s spell.
Despite the cynicism the public feels about Apple’s incessant parade of product upgrades and disturbing news about its factory conditions in China, we still love one aspect of Apple’s brand: the retail stores. In fact, in 2012 Apple’s more than 400 stores attracted 120 million people. So the company plans to strengthen its brand by expanding its retail space: closing 20 stores that can no longer accommodate the growing crowds and opening 30 new stores across the globe, expanding the brand’s retail presence into 13 countries.
Clearly something profound is happening in Apple’s retail stores; something that extends beyond our attraction to digital devices, our obsession with the latest technology and our affinity for the knowledgeable customer service representatives that answer our questions. Apple retail stores are becoming part of our communities—like your local Starbucks, but without the requisite caffeine addiction.
Apple retail stores are serving not only our need for information, but our need to be relevant, which is more than simply owning the cool factor of an iPad (you can order that online). The beauty of technology is that it allows us to shop without having to do things like drive 35 minutes to the physical space–but for Apple we do it anyway. We visit the nearest Apple store, which often isn’t near at all, the same way we go see a movie or watch a football game.
On Monday morning, if your coworker asks what you did this weekend and you reply, “I went to the Apple store on Saturday” they would simply nod their approval, knowing that it was a significant part of your day. Very few people walk into an Apple store and walk out minutes later.
RadioShack, on the other hand, is a very different story.