My thoughts on Apple’s new retail store strategy

It’s not often that Apple invites journalists to its stores for a preview anymore, but today was a bit different. Apple not only unveiled its new San Francisco store, it also explained its new strategy for its major retail outlets, including enhancements in customer experience through the integration of cutting-edge luxury retail clienteling software.

As I sat listening to Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president of retail and online stores, it became clear very quickly that Apple kept its attention to detail in the design of the location, but completely rethought how it functioned.


“Fifteen years ago today Apple opened its first two stores and we’re thrilled to mark the occasion with the opening of Apple Union Square in San Francisco,” said Ahrendts. “We are not just evolving our store design, but its purpose and greater role in the community as we educate and entertain visitors and serve our network of local entrepreneurs.”

Ahrendts said the company even thought about how sections of the Apple stores were named, like the Genius Bar. The word “bar” brings up thoughts of a busy, noisy space—not really what you’re looking for when trying to talk to an expert about your problems.


Apple renamed it the Genius Grove and added trees and seating, which gives it a more relaxed look and feel. It’s calming.

While Ahrendts talked about Jony Ive and some design elements of the store, like the 42 foot tall doors that open 40 feet wide, she focused most of her talk on the “purpose” of the store itself.

In all, Apple said they were unveiling five new features in the San Francisco Apple Store:

“The Avenue,” inspired by the window displays along a boulevard that dynamically change with the season. Avenue walls are interactive themed “windows” where Apple’s products and services come to life, from music, to creativity, apps, photography and more. New “Creative Pros,” Apple experts in creative arts, offer advice and expertise at each of the displays. Customers will also find “Only at Apple” products on the Avenue, a curated collection of third-party accessories.

“Genius Grove” invites customers to get support working side-by-side with Geniuses under the comfortable canopy of local trees in the heart of the store.

“The Forum” is a vibrant gathering place, centered around a 6K Video Wall. It is home to “Today at Apple,” which brings to the community the world’s most talented artists, photographers, musicians, gamers, developers and entrepreneurs to inspire and educate our customers to go further with the things they are passionate about. Today at Apple includes year-round programs for kids, new monthly events for teachers, sessions for current and aspiring developers, Creative Sessions in partnership with local experts in creative arts, Game Night with editors from Apple’s App Store and more. The Forum and Video Wall are a place of discovery, including events about the making of movies from iTunes, or exclusive premieres of new music and music videos from Apple Music.


“The Plaza” will be found only at Apple’s most significant stores, including Apple Union Square. It’s open to the public 24 hours a day, features public Wi-Fi and seating, and takes Today at Apple outside, with a regular weekend series of well known local acoustic performances such as Travis Hayes and global talents like Escondido, who will then give exclusive interviews about their craft in the Forum. The Plaza at Apple Union Square features a fountain by well-known San Francisco sculptor Ruth Asawa, originally commissioned in 1969, and a new work, “Love” by local artist Laura Kimpton, commissioned by Hyatt Hotels.


“The Boardroom” is an intimate space where the store’s Business Team offers hands-on advice and training to entrepreneurs, developers and other small and medium business customers.

By looking at the list, it’s easy to say that some of these features have been around for a while—you would be partially correct. The Genius Bar has been a staple of Apple stores for years, but yet, I feel like they are different.


Apple is becoming a larger part of the communities where they do business. Not just the tech community or for the people that are buying products, but the larger community.

It’s not just Apple, the gigantic company, it’s an individual store, with local people working there, local entrepreneurs presenting, local businesses learning, and local artists inspiring and educating.

The Apple store in San Francisco felt different. It felt good.