Feature: Apple Store, Tysons Grand Opening

Living only about 20 minutes from Tysons Corner Center, I was lucky enough to be able to visit the Apple Store yesterday, during its grand opening. I arrived at 2pm and took my place in line.

An hour and fifteen minutes later I was admitted, by the guards standing watch, into the store. It was worth the wait.

Apple's high-design store layout felt much more like a modern-art gallery than a computer retail outlet. The store was teeming with Apple sales people (and "geniuses" back around the Genius Bar) sporting black "Shop Different" t-shirts. All current Macs (save the dual-processor G4's which are a special order item) were represented either along stylish wall-displays or spread about various island display arrangements. The various AirPort wireless hubs, connecting all the Macs in the store to the 'net, were prominently display as well. There were Macs equipped with video cameras running iMovie, connected to ink-jet printers for print demonstrations, and sporting headphones for iTunes demos--all were running OS X.

There were more than just Macs on display for sale, rounding out the feel and value of the store. There was a moderate selection of boxed software on display, as well as various Handspring and Palm handhelds, and a nice selection of printers, scanners, displays, and speakers. The store is also selling a range of digital video cameras as well as various pocket MP3 players. And towards the back of the store, next to the Genius Bar, is the presentation area where Apple reps were working through a day-long schedule of product/technology demonstrations. Pretty good stuff.

It was a pretty impressive event, all around. A great many passers-by stopped and asked those in line what the stir was. I was asked by ten people, I'd say. "Are they giving something away?" they'd ask. "Is there someone famous in there?" When they heard that
there were no door prizes (well...you did get a t-shirt upon exiting), no celebrities, it was interesting to note their varied responses.

Some were simply surprised by the turnout. Others were somewhat dumbfounded ("the store's gonna be there tomorrow, and every other day, right?"). Others, still, were more shaken to the core, it seemed ("you have GOT to be KIDIDNG me--Christ!"). I think most "Mac people" present were in the line, so those asking about the event were a good representation of the 95% Apple is after. And I think the stores are going to be a big win for Apple, because regardless of how mystified the onlookers were upon seeing the massive line, after
shaking their heads for a few moments, every single one of them walked slowly by the store and gave this genuine curiosity a long, hard look.

There is no doubt that every single one of those people will pay a visit to that store at some point, to see what all the fuss was about. I'm sure everyone in the line was pleased and encouraged to see that sort of reaction. So even if each individual store is not profitable (which, looking at retail margins, I think is not unexpected), it's still a huge advertising win for Apple--which is precisely the point.

We'd be interested in hearing others' reactions, in the discussion forum, to the opening of this store and the one in Glendale. It will be interesting to track the turnouts as each new Apple Store opens, one every ten days for the rest of the year. In the meantime, if you're lucky enough to live in close proximity to one of these new stores, be sure to swing in and take a look. You never know what you'll walk away with (in my case, it was a new Epson printer)!

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