Apple Retail Store Hits Chicagoland

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Date: Sunday, August 26th, 2001, 23:58
Category: Archive

Apple continues to open retail stores, debuting a Chicago location Saturday. But is the store worth the fuss?

Anne Kirn, special to Go2Mac, with Peter Kirn

Apple continues to open retail stores, debuting a Chicago location Saturday. But is the store worth the fuss?

The latest location to open an Apple Store, Woodfield Mall is the largest in the Chicago area, located about an hour from the heart of the city in the suburb of Schaumburg. With graphics professionals located far away downtown, a Woodfield location aims squarely at family and home users. The Apple Store is located on the upper level of the Lord & Taylor wing at Woodfield and can be reached at (847)240-6280.

Woodfield was exceptionally crowded this weekend, so the opening of the new Apple Store got plenty of attention from passers-by. While standing in line to enter, a number of people came up to ask what was going on. Though most seemed perplexed by the answer (“It’s just a store?”), some quietly joined the line themselves to see what the fuss was about.

So what was the fuss about? From the outside, the first impression of the store is fairly unremarkable. Large logo banners hanging in the windows block most of the view inside, but operating computers (a G4 and an iBook) spin leisurely on lucite turntables in front of that. Inside the store, things are equally understated. The overall look was clean-lined and bright, and rather uncannily Banana Republic-like in vibe. Floors are unstained wood, and displays are black with curving white tops.

It’s probably the best public face Apple has ever presented to the non-Mac user. The store feels upscale and high-tech without being intimidating. The emphasis on neutral colors dispels the technicolor spectre of Macs as desk candy. The sales staff was young and ethnically mixed, as well as knowledgable and friendly. Though it was probably different earlier in the day, couples and families outnumbered die-hard users in the store. The most popular area was probably an iMac display set up at childrens’ level and equipped with games and educational software.

At least a third of those who came in were actually making purchases, from software to complete G4 systems, which is definitely good news.

Perhaps the biggest question at this point is Apple’s commitment to a big move into retail — no matter how well-designed, a small handful of stores is unlikely to have any measurable impact on Mac market share. Apple does remain on a steady schedule of openings, however. And its caution may be well-advised: Apple is in unfamiliar territory, in the middle of an economic slowdown which is hitting retail especially hard (including models for the Apple Store like Banana Republic), and with a retail concept that has failed for manufacturers like Gateway.

Given those conditions, the Woodfield opening is a welcome one, and early indications from this store and others are that Apple is hitting its target market, upscale family users, right on the nose. And as for those die-hard Mac addicts waiting in line, who are already converted anyway? We may just be what it takes to get everyone else to see what “all the fuss is about.”

Anne Kirn is a Mac-based writer and film and animation artist and was lucky enough to be in Chicago for the opening. Peter Kirn is Associate Editor with Go2Mac and was lucky enough to be at the beach instead.

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