Apple is 1/3 of the way through major remake of flagship retail stores

major remake of flagship retail stores

SANTA MONICA, Calif.—With a massive remodel program underway for current Apple Stores, the iPhone maker is set on remaking retail into a place that puts education and community first, and sales second.

What Apple refers to as one of its “flagship” locations, the large store near the Pacific Ocean — and a gathering place for local actors, filmmakers and the millions of tourists who visit yearly — reopens Saturday, after several weeks of a major remodel. Apple says its one-third of the way into remodeling or making over its 100 flagship stores, and using a new store design for new locations.

While the idea is to bring in customers and get them hooked on Apple products, Angela Ahrendts, the company’s senior vice-president of retail, says she wants the stores to act as “gathering spaces, where people can come in, get service and support and learn about everything they would do on their devices.”

Gene Munster, an analyst and investor with Loup Ventures, calls the Apple Stores the company’s most “under-appreciated competitive advantage,” over rivals.

“No other tech company has Apple’s base of 65,000 retail employees delivering face-to-face advice, support, and experiences,” he says. “Microsoft comes in second with about 6,000 retail employees.”

Microsoft also has a retail store to show off its products, with just under 100 locations.

Clearly, the approach is paying off for Apple, which raised prices on nearly every product line in 2018, bringing the top of the line iPhone to a starting price of $1,100 ($100 more than last year) and, for the first time, selling an iPad that starts at $1,000.

Apple competes with many companies, mostly notably at retail with device makers like Samsung and Google, who make rival smartphones.

“Apple is able to sell through discovery,” says Munster. “This is how to sell technology today, offering something more than just a place to look and buy, but instead an experience.”

Apple hasn’t specified how much it’s spending on the upgrades. The store concept began in 2001 at a time when Microsoft dominated computer usage, and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said retail did a poor job of showing his products.

Today, there are over 500 Apple Stores globally. Besides the remodeled Santa Monica location, Apple also opened a new store on the historic Champs-Élysées this weekend as well.

Apple

Ahrendts says the older stores really needed to be updated, as Apple has so many more product lines now. (Originally, it was just computers and iPods.)

The flagship stores are broken into three areas:

—Avenues: This is where Apple devotes product selection to themed areas, like photography and health, and where customers can go hands-on time with them.

—The Grove: Trees are imported and are a visual to bring customers to the newly renamed “Genius Grove,” where more product specialists will be available to help with support, Apple says. Customers still need to make reservations via the Apple Store smartphone app, although walk-ins can try their luck, usually right when the store opens.

—The Forum: This is where Apple stages its daily, free “Today at Apple” seminars, devoted to photography, art, computer coding and the like. The list of classes is available on the Apple Store app. Customers can’t miss it–the Forum is flanked by a giant video screen at the back of the store.

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Airline seat size: Will FAA bring relief to squeezed flyers?

Airline Seat Size

In 2014 I first wrote here about the issue of incredibly shrinking aircraft accommodations with “Think airline seats have gotten smaller? They have.” Using archived data, I detailed how both legroom (as measured in seat pitch) and comfort (as measured in seat width) have both been steadily decreasing since the 1980s. In the four years since that column was widely disseminated, conditions have only gotten worse.

Therefore the recent headlines declaring that Congress had addressed airborne seat shrinkage seemed like welcome news. But the underlying issues are much more complex. And it’s way too soon to celebrate more legroom in an industry that is actively squeezing us into increasingly cramped quarters.

The government appears all but certain to regulate minimum seat sizes for airline flights after the Senate voted 93-6 to pass legislation that extends funding for the FAA for another five years. The legislation also includes provisions that affect air travelers.

Chief among them: The bill orders the FAA to set standards for the size of airline seats, part of what’s known as the “Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act.” The agency would have one year to come up with minimum requirements for seat width and for the space between seats.

The legislation has already been passed by the House and is expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump.

As for the seat sizes, however, it’s unclear what rules the agency might ultimately adopt. Passengers’ rights groups undoubtedly hope the FAA might pass requirements that would require airlines to add more space to seats that now have as little as 29 inches between rows. However, it’s possible that the FAA’s rules could instead end up codifying the tightest seating arrangements already offered on U.S. airlines.

30 COOL AVIATION PICS: Virgin, 727s, ‘Star Wars’ Dreamliners and more

Lawmakers abandoned a plan backed by airlines to privatize the nation’s air-traffic-control system. And congressional negotiators dropped a proposal to crack down on “unreasonable” airline fees.

“Congress has missed an historic, once in a generation opportunity to stop gargantuan airlines from gouging Americans with exorbitant fees every time they fly,” said Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee who sponsored the provision in a Senate version of the bill that was dropped from the final version

Airline Seat Size

The FAA legislation also includes other stipulations. It bars carriers from involuntarily removing passengers who’ve already boarded, a rule with echoes of the passenger-dragging incident on United in April 2017.

“I think we can all agree that once you’ve boarded a plane, you shouldn’t be kicked off until you arrive at your destination,” said Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

The legislation also instructs airlines to create better communication protocols for informing customers about flight delays.

Other details in the legislation: The Department of Transportation would be instructed to set rules for service and emotional-support animals on planes including “reasonable measures to ensure pets are not claimed as service animals.” Live animals would be prohibited from being transported in overhead compartments.

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