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Former Apple SVP Ron Johnson Recounts Early Days of Apple Retail Stores

Former Apple retail chief Ron Johnson spoke earlier this year at his alma mater Stanford University and talked about the early years of Apple retail stores (via ifoAppleStore). Johnson oversaw the development of the Apple Store and is credited with creating the company's distinctive retail experience.


After joining Apple in 2000, Johnson was given complete control over the company's retail project by then-CEO Steve Jobs. The first Apple Stores featured high-speed Internet connections to attract new customers and were originally designed to create a sense of community among Apple users, not necessarily sell products.
“It was a pure play,” Johnson said of the store design. “There was really no compromise on any of the intuition. And I think that’s how the Apple stores connected (with visitors).” Even today, he said, people go to the stores, “just to go. They don’t go to buy. There are so many reasons to come.”
Johnson joined Apple as Senior Vice President of Retail Operations in January 2000 and remained in that role until 2011, when he departed for a CEO position at J.C. Penney. Under his leadership, Apple's retail operations exploded, generating over a $1 billion in annual sales within two years and eventually leading all U.S. retailers in terms of monetary sales per square foot.

Johnson was succeeded by Dixons' John Browett, who served as Apple's retail chief for a short seven months. Apple's retail operations, which now include 425 retail stores in 16 countries worldwide, are now under the leadership of former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts, who joined Apple earlier this year. Ahrendts is best known for her transformation of Burberry from a struggling retailer into a global fashion powerhouse.

Top Rated Comments

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3 weeks ago

I visit the store nearest my home. It was not always this way. There has been an unfortunate turn. I'll give you an example.

Several months ago I stopped in and looked at the iPad Air. A salesperson approached and asked if I had questions. I only had one. How much memory on the Air.

His response "I don't know." I asked him to find someone in the store who had the info. "No one here knows. Nobody knows. Even Apple doesn't know".

I thanked him and left. This store needs a new manager or Apple needs a CEO.


I assume you were asking about RAM, and not SSD memory. Apple doesn't publish how much RAM is in their iOS devices. Only people who read rumor sites would know such an answer so I don't think the salesperson's response was as awful as you're making it out to be. That would have been the response any time you entered any Apple store selling iOS devices. Same if you asked about processor speed.

Whether you think Apple should make RAM (or clock speed) an important spec when selling their iOS devices is another topic, but thinking the store salespeople are terrible because they only discuss specs that Apple releases is silly.
Rating: 10 Votes
3 weeks ago

"The first Apple Stores featured high-speed Internet connections to attract new customers and were originally designed to create a sense of community among Apple users, not necessarily sell products."

This and amazing products made Apple store visits wonderful. I seldom left without making a purchase. Now I avoid the Apple store. If I want a hard sell environment with verbal misrepresentations there are always used car lots to visit.


What Apple store are you visiting? I've experienced nothing like that.....ever.
Rating: 6 Votes
3 weeks ago

I visit the store nearest my home. It was not always this way. There has been an unfortunate turn. I'll give you an example.

Several months ago I stopped in and looked at the iPad Air. A salesperson approached and asked if I had questions. I only had one. How much memory on the Air.

His response "I don't know." I asked him to find someone in the store who had the info. "No one here knows. Nobody knows. Even Apple doesn't know".

I thanked him and left. This store needs a new manager or Apple needs a CEO.


Umm, not really an example of a hard sell. And arguably it isn't misinformation either. Although, saying that APPLE doesn't know it is probably not really accurate, it is try that they generally don't publish this information and it requires someone to tear it down and discover this.
Rating: 5 Votes
3 weeks ago
"The first Apple Stores featured high-speed Internet connections to attract new customers and were originally designed to create a sense of community among Apple users, not necessarily sell products."

This and amazing products made Apple store visits wonderful. I seldom left without making a purchase. Now I avoid the Apple store. If I want a hard sell environment with verbal misrepresentations there are always used car lots to visit.
Rating: 2 Votes
3 weeks ago

What Apple store are you visiting? I've experienced nothing like that.....ever.



I visit the store nearest my home. It was not always this way. There has been an unfortunate turn. I'll give you an example.

Several months ago I stopped in and looked at the iPad Air. A salesperson approached and asked if I had questions. I only had one. How much memory on the Air.

His response "I don't know." I asked him to find someone in the store who had the info. "No one here knows. Nobody knows. Even Apple doesn't know".

I thanked him and left. This store needs a new manager or Apple needs a CEO.
Rating: 2 Votes
3 weeks ago

Hmm I'm confused. You did a Personal Pickup and the employee told you they were not happy that you purchased online?

And sales pressure? They don't pressure you Lol. Apple products can sell themselves...

Something isn't adding up.



Yes. I was made aware that the purchase should be made at that retail location.

If they don't pressure in the store you visit good for you.

I'm finished with this topic. It's obvious that some people here think each and every retain store is the same. Any location of any retail store is only as good as the GM. Apple is no exception
Rating: 2 Votes
3 weeks ago

I visit the store nearest my home. It was not always this way. There has been an unfortunate turn. I'll give you an example.

Several months ago I stopped in and looked at the iPad Air. A salesperson approached and asked if I had questions. I only had one. How much memory on the Air.

His response "I don't know." I asked him to find someone in the store who had the info. "No one here knows. Nobody knows. Even Apple doesn't know".

I thanked him and left. This store needs a new manager or Apple needs a CEO.


That was a poor way to go about it. He could've Google'd it or asked someone. He does not represent all of Apple though... If you had that same experience multiple times I would understand. You just happened to get the lazy jerk.

Seriously, Apple stores have changed (hate to say it.. but seems around when Steve died).

In the past, I always felt comfortable walking into an Apple store and would only asked once if I needed help. This was great, because it was a relief from walking into Best Buy for example, where you have some fly buzzing around you non-stop "do you need help with something?".

Often times I walk into an Apple store for no reason at all, usually when the wife is shopping and I get an excuse to escape picking out girly clothes- to simply admire the iPad i've already seen 20 times that I don't have yet.

Maybe it's all in my head, but it really seems they've pushed employees to be up your ass a little bit more over the years and feels a bit corporate. This makes me less excited to stop in.


Customers complain that they didn't get approached or were confused when needing to be rung up for an item. That's why the employees ask people if they need help or have questions.

Apple employees are still friendly and welcoming. There were negative employees in 2008/2009 and there are negative employees now... Apple does have a lot more employees and stores today than it did when Steve was alive and healthier, but there are amazing interactions still happening at the stores.
Rating: 1 Votes
3 weeks ago

They're probably the same ones who don't know how to call a waiters attention when needed; writing and spreading bad service reviews afterwards.


Precisely .
Rating: 1 Votes
3 weeks ago

I assume you were asking about RAM, and not SSD memory. Apple doesn't publish how much RAM is in their iOS devices. Only people who read rumor sites would know such an answer so I don't think the salesperson's response was as awful as you're making it out to be. That would have been the response any time you entered any Apple store selling iOS devices. Same if you asked about processor speed.

Whether you think Apple should make RAM (or clock speed) an important spec when selling their iOS devices is another topic, but thinking the store salespeople are terrible because they only discuss specs that Apple releases is silly.


They literally said Apple doesn't even know how much memory is in the iPad Air... yes that is a very idiotic response.
Rating: 1 Votes
3 weeks ago

Seriously, Apple stores have changed (hate to say it.. but seems around when Steve died).

In the past, I always felt comfortable walking into an Apple store and would only asked once if I needed help. This was great, because it was a relief from walking into Best Buy for example, where you have some fly buzzing around you non-stop "do you need help with something?".

Often times I walk into an Apple store for no reason at all, usually when the wife is shopping and I get an excuse to escape picking out girly clothes- to simply admire the iPad i've already seen 20 times that I don't have yet.

Maybe it's all in my head, but it really seems they've pushed employees to be up your ass a little bit more over the years and feels a bit corporate. This makes me less excited to stop in.


It is. Perfect example of confirmation bias.

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Yes. I was made aware that the purchase should be made at that retail location.

If they don't pressure in the store you visit good for you.

I'm finished with this topic. It's obvious that some people here think each and every retain store is the same. Any location of any retail store is only as good as the GM. Apple is no exception


Look, we get it. You want Tim Cook to step down as CEO of Apple because you do not have confidence in his ability to maintain Jobs' vision. Every thread you participate in does not have to work towards that conclusion.
Rating: 1 Votes

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