business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Reuters this morning reports that Apple is launching a new bricks-and-mortar format - an Apple Express store that "has a wall built in front of the main store with sales counters protected by plexiglass and a few shelves of accessories such as phone cases and AirPods. Customers make an appointment to pick up orders placed online or interact with Apple’s technicians for customer service."

There currently are 20 operating, with 50 expected to be up and running by the holidays.

The stores will not have the built-for-browsing ambience that have made Apple Stores so distinctive and profitable since their inception almost two decades ago.

The story suggests that the format is designed to help Apple answer the potential challenges created by a spike in Covid-19 infections that has the potential of closing many of the malls where it has stores.  In addition, Apple is launching the new iPhone 12, and it understands that the current state of physical retail has the potential of depressing sales to some degree.

It makes sense to find new ways to connect to customers in these difficult times.  As notable a success as the Apple Store format has been, theres no question that the combination of public health issues and a broader move away from mall shopping by consumers made coming up with a new format almost a requirement.

That's a lesson that more retailers ought to consider - testing new formats that both new and existing customers may find more relevant to current circumstances.

I will say this though.  While I'm glad to have the Apple Express option, when I wanted to order the iPhone 12, I did so using my iPhone 11.

Actually, to be honest, I handed my iPhone 11 to my 26-year-old daughter, told her what model and color I wanted, and she did it for me in about three minutes.

That was an Eye-Opener.