My Second Apple Store Opening Experience

Few would that disagree that Apple retail stores seem to inspire enthusiasm few other retail outlets can. I don’t know if it is the Apple brand itself, the beautiful design and attention to detail of the stores, or just the free WiFi, but I have never yet been able to pay a visit to an empty Apple Store!

A new store opening is a particularly special occasion. I was lucky enough to go to the opening of the WestQuay store in Southampton, UK, back in 2007 — but this time, it was the turn of the new Festival Place store in Basingstoke, UK.

This new store is particularly convenient for me, being only a 20 minute train ride away. The peace of mind one gets from knowing that knowledgeable people and repairs are easy to access is particularly important. This is perhaps one of the things that sets the Apple retail store concept apart from other tech retailers — it genuinely is not just about making the sale, it’s about the whole experience, including sales, supporting new and old users, training, learning and repair.

The Grand Opening Experience

The doors of the Apple Store open

So, what is the experience of an Apple Store ‘Grand Opening’ like?

Well, there is usually a fair bit of waiting in line (or ‘queueing’, as we Brits prefer to say) involved. Curiously, the queue for the Festival Place store was actually more modest than for the smaller WestQuay store. Also, back in 2007, there was free food and drink handed out to those waiting to get in — this time the local coffee shop was taking orders and money!

Gratis grub aside, expect loud enthusiasm from the staff on Opening Day — cheering, whooping and high-fives, doing the Wave and chanting. It’s all good natured fun, and it creates a pretty special atmosphere, but I personally do draw the line at joining in with the chanting of “Apple”, “Apple”, “Apple”!

Eventually, you’ll be directed, in an orderly fashion, into the rather busy and loud store to have a look around. While I don’t think the Genius Bar will do repairs on launch day, you are free to browse — and of course make purchases too. I found the staff at both events friendly and helpful, and I wasn’t made to feel under pressure to leave quickly or make a purchase, despite the large number of people still queueing for a chance to get in. I felt quite free to look around at leisure and soak up the experience of the new store. Even at a busy opening event like this, my experience of the staff and the interactions I had with them was still very good.

From the back of the Apple Store

It is certainly, as I say, a unique retail experience and one that’s probably worth taking the time to do if you’re an Apple faithful and you have a store opening soon nearby. There will be lots of like-minded Apple folk in line for the adventure.

I shot a little bit of video from the Festival Place Grand Opening, which you can view on YouTube.

To conclude, an observation on the new store. With the advent of the Mac App Store, the writing has been on the wall for boxed software on the Mac — at least the stuff stocked on the shelves in Apple Stores, that is. So, it seemed slightly puzzling that this brand new store had a relatively sizeable section devoted to just that — boxed software for the Mac. How quaint.

Boxed software on the Apple Store shelves