In praise of the Apple Store

Earlier today Scott McNulty complained about the Apple Store. I love my Apple Store, even if I have to love it from a distance (the closest store is nearly an hour away).

The service I’ve gotten in there is consistently excellent, as it is at even the highest volume stores. Staff are always friendly and attentive when they’re not managing mobs of people. Even McNulty admits that Geniuses can make a very bad situation much better.

The company’s profit per square foot is the best in the retail business. Apple’s retail store profitability is ahead of premium luxury brands like Tiffany and Coach, or even wildly popular yoga outfitter Lululemon.

And that’s in part because of the mobs of people that Scott and I inflict ourselves upon. Many Apple retail stores are overpacked with people buying products, asking questions or having products serviced. Which makes being a grumpy misanthrope even more of a drag.

Apple’s addressed one problem McNulty talks about – getting the attention of a staff member long enough to buy a product – and made an app for that. If you’re already using an iPhone, just whip it out and buy stuff right off the store shelves without ever having to interact with a human at all. His wife’s solution – raising her hand – works too. So does shopping online.

I’d love a deserted Apple store, but Apple can’t really lower the density of customers in their store and maintain the same high profit per square foot. That requires a careful buildout, and Apple hasn’t leapt without looking like Gateway did many years ago. That story ended badly.

Apple Stores are busy but the service is still excellent and Apple’s made it easier to pay than ever. I don’t see the problem, outside of their (and society’s) absurd requirement that I wear some kind of leg covering.