My daughter Kate and I went to the Sherway Gardens shopping mall in Toronto on Saturday morning to check out the opening of the new Apple Store. Apple Stores are somewhat of a novelty for me, since we don’t actually have any in Australia. (What’s the story SJ? Aussies want Macs too, you know!)
Since living in Canada I have visted the store at Yorkdale Mall in Toronto, where I bought my MacBook Pro, as well as the store in Galeria Mall in Cambridge Boston, where I had to buy a replacement power adapter for the one I left in a hotel in Sydney, Nova Scotia. (I eventually got that power adapter back btw). I also visited the very cool and funky Apple Store in Fifth Avenue, New York City when I was there last month. These stores all do basically the same thing – let you try and buy the whole range of Apple products.
The funny thing is that the product range for Apple is quite finite. The do a couple models of MacBooks, a couple of desktop models, and about 7 different iPods. There’s also the accessories and software and various bits and pieces. It’s a wide range of stuff but it’s not so big that it’s mind boggling. And every Apple Store looks more or less the same, has the same sort of feel to them, and has the same products on display. Prices are fixed by Apple so they don’t really do discounts or special deals. The just sell and display the whole Apple range.
So why did I bother going to the opening of the Sherway Store? I knew I wasn’t going to see anything I hadn’t already seen. I was pretty sure the pricing would be standard (not that I planned to buy anything anyway). The offer of a free T-shirt to the first 1000 people was kind of cool, but hey, a T-shirt is a T-shirt right? The reason I went was just to check it out, “soak up the vibe” and be able to say I’d been to an Apple Store opening.
Well, the store opened at 9:30 and we got there about 9:35. As we approached the store, the line to get in stretched back down through the mall, out the doors, across the plaza and into the carpark. It was probably 400 metres long. It took us nearly 40 minutes to get in the door, and when we did we got a T-shirt, spent about 20 minutes looking around (at products we’d seen many times before) and then we left. With any other store, I would never have waited in a line like that, but somehow, Apple seems able to create a buzz, a hype, and a sense of wanting to just be a part of that. I don’t quite know how they do it, but it’s very real and the sight of the long line of people waiting to visit the new store was just a testament to Apple’s ability to somehow draw people with that indefineable spirit that only Apple seems to be able to generate.
Steve Jobs once touched on it in an interview when talking about Apple’s early products…
“It’s the same thing that causes people to want to be poets instead of bankers … And I think that that same spirit can be put into products, and those products can be manufactured and given to people and they can sense that spirit.”
Interestingly, there was a Dell store not 100 metres away and it was totally deserted. Not a single person even browsing. I guess people can sense Dell’s spirit too.