Apple wants to restore grandeur of its retail spaces

With sales at the stores down, the Mac maker is returning to its roots by putting the emphasis back on the customer experience.

By Benzinga Aug 2, 2013 2:48PM

Remember when taking a trip to an Apple (AAPL) store was an experience in itself -- even if you didn't buy anything?

Remember how cool it was to walk into the store and see all of those beautiful Mac computers set up with iPads as signage instead of some tired 1990s-looking laser printed "SALE" sign?

Shopping or browsing in an Apple store was such an experience that at some locations customers had to wait in line just to enter the store. And the Apple store in Grand Central Station? It was like going to a fine museum.

According to the Wall Street Journal, that experience is starting to feel like the company's current product line: old. 

Retail sales have fallen to $4,542 per square foot -- down 4.5% year over year and sales during the fiscal third quarter fell to $4 billion -- the lowest since fiscal Q4 of 2011.

The scapegoat for the decline is John Browett, Apple's retail boss for only six months. He put the focus on cost-cutting, sales tactics and the bottom line. Ron Johnson, who fared much better as Apple's retail chief than as a J.C. Penney (JCP) CEO, made the focus customer satisfaction and the "wow" factor of the stores. Apple invested lavishly in the stores, and it paid off -- at the time.

Apple is still on the hunt for a head of its retail stores. The search that has taken more than 10 months has produced some viable candidates but Apple wasn't excited about them and in other cases, the candidates weren't excited about Apple.

In what sounds very un-Apple, one recruiter told WSJ that some candidates aren't enthusiastic about the job. Reason being that Apple's upper management hasn't been clear about their future vision for retail and making any changes inside the culture of the company may be near impossible.

In the interim, CEO Tim Cook heads the retail division. He wants to revitalize sales that have topped off and aggressively expand the stores' presence in countries like China.

To gain some perspective, sales may have slipped from $5,971 per square foot in 2012 to $4,542 today. Those numbers would make just about any company ecstatic, as by comparison, Lululemon Athletica (LULU) has sales of $2,464 per square foot, while others have far less than that.

According to the Journal, Apple is returning to its roots by putting the emphasis back on the customer experience. If there's one thing investors and analysts agree on when it comes to the most talked about company and stock on the planet, it's that the time has come for some new products.

When that happens, assuming they impress consumers, many of these waning metrics will likely reverse -- hopefully.

Disclosure: At the time of this writing, Tim Parker was long Apple

More from Benzinga
Aug 2, 2013 4:10PM
I remember when going to an Apple store felt pretentious and assuming, oh wait, still like that.
Aug 2, 2013 4:35PM
It's not so much the store, it's the products inside the store. I have an iPone and and iPad. I occasionally go to the Apple store in my area to see if they a have anything new and they don't. Everything I see is just a variation of something I already own. 

Aug 2, 2013 4:44PM

What had made Apple so cool was their innovation.  Sadly this has fallen off the table for them.  Even their new products, while they may have a bit of cool to them, will force you to buy other things.  Example: for their new desktop, it will look and feel cool.  But you cannot put in a different graphics card.  So if you have special needs or just want something better - too bad, door slammed.  And if you want to use an external hard drive, the connector is Thunderbolt.  Most people don't have one already - so you have to buy one.  But what if you already have a drive and want to simply transfer things around - too bad, door slammed.

They are going to have some tough sales here.

And Samsung cell phones are eating Apple's lunch!

Aug 2, 2013 3:36PM

You can polish a turd but it's still a turd.

Aug 2, 2013 5:55PM
I wanted to buy an iMac and looked at the specs bought a PC that was twice as good for half the price
Aug 2, 2013 5:10PM
I remember when Apple came out with new products not just updated version of the same!
Aug 2, 2013 4:48PM
Aug 2, 2013 5:35PM
Apple was the first with a good personal computer but once competition hit the market with reliability and compatibility at a far lower price point.   Apple stopped being the first choice for business and consumers.  Fast forward about 35 years and the IPhone hit the market with innovations.  Soon Samsung was making a better product at a lower price point and Apple is number two.  It seems they didn't learn the lesson the first time.
Aug 2, 2013 4:14PM
Aug 2, 2013 5:52PM
Maybe if they lowered the prices it would draw people in.  I don't want to pay for the name.   If I can get the same technology at a lower price than that's who is getting my money.  In this day and age when everything is going up except my salary (we have not had a raise in 5 years) then I spend my money more wisely.
Aug 2, 2013 5:40PM
Bought new Apple phone, never worked right from day one. Finally drove 17 miles each way to Apple store to have them look at it. They told me I have to make an appointment which translated to a 3 hour wait to have someone look at it .I left. Will never buy Apple product again...ever.
Aug 2, 2013 5:18PM
I lost it with Apple awhile ago. Their business tactics/policies have gone sour. Their treatment of employees here and abroad are disgusting. I refuse to buy or even receive as a gift any Apple product in future. As a matter of fact, my iPod is up for sale. They had a good thing going for a long time, but like so many businesses, upper management turn astray and loose all contact/respect for both worker and consumer. Tata Apple. You and I are through. 
Aug 2, 2013 5:54PM
It's over for Apple forever and its all comes down to the obvious..

No more Steve Jobs and they are ever going to find another one like him. 

They have nothing more than a bunch of college educated drones taking over with exactly 0 vision!

Can you say TOAST!
Aug 2, 2013 5:20PM

New product = new in store sales.   DUH    Apple = No new products.

Aug 2, 2013 6:10PM

First; Going into an Apple store is an exercize in frustration at trying to get a salesperson to help. Most of them just want to hang around and talk to each other.

Second; I guess the Apple people don't see the need for actual cashiers, so this too is an exercise in frustration when trying to get someone to ring up an item pulled off a shelf.

Third; Apple products are lame, always have been always will be. Once the novelty started wearing off, the consumer started to become aware of this and started shopping elsewhere.

Fourth; Maybe Apple doesn't quite know what its customer base wants as much as it thinks it does.

Fifth; You can only get so far by employeeing (or helping to employee) impoverished people, working in less than human conditions in China.

Aug 2, 2013 6:23PM
Apple ... a fancy word for Chinese Outlet Store.
Aug 2, 2013 6:21PM

I will not buy Apple until it's made in the USA. They are as bad for America as Wal-Mart.

Aug 2, 2013 5:27PM

The gradedur can go only so far when Apple products look pretty much the same as products from other companies. Samsung makes pretty much same looking phones and tables anyway. You don't have go to an apple store to buy cool-looking phones and tablets.

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