Tuesday, September 07, 2004, 07:00 am PT (10:00 am ET)
Apple Retail plans major store launch, scouts Manchester locationsReporting from Osaka, Japan, ifoAppleStore's Gary Allen recaps the launch of Apple's second international flagship store, and hints at many of the company's future retail plans.
Apple Store Shinsaibashi Grand Opening
The grand opening of Apple's second international retail store was a rousing success. Nearly 1,500 people lined up along Midosuji street in Osaka, Japan last weekend to witness the event and catch a first hand look at the store's spiral glass staircase and products.
Inside the two-story Shinsaibashi retail store, a table stacked with 250 iPod Minis greeted visitors. Like its American flagship cousins, the store features a extended Genius Bar and a 24-seat theater on the second floor. Many of the store's first customers rushed for the cash register at the rear of the store, hoping to grab one of 250 "Lucky Bags" being sold on grand opening day. These customers were rewarded with black bags contained an AirPort Express, wireless keyboard and mouse, a Griffin iTrip and iTalk, Keynote, a .Mac account, ProCare card, iLife '04 and a 10% store discount card.
On the eve of the grand opening, the waiting line stretched 120 people long and consisted of several students from other countries now studying abroad in Japan. The mix included students from the United States, Norway, Australia and Britain. Several people brought laptops, but due to the store's stainless steel siding, AirPort reception was limited to the front of the store. And while daytime temperatures soared to 93 degrees, the street's leafy gingko trees provided plenty of shade for the over-zealous crowd.
Apple Store Nagoya
But even as the opening day ceremonies wound down, attention turned to the next official Apple store in Nagoya, about 80 miles northeast of Osaka. Apple is now accepting applications for employment through a Web site, and tipsters say the store will open in early 2005.
Apple Store Manchester
Almost 6,000 miles away, there's real estate action in Manchester, England, where tipsters say representatives from a large computer company are looking for a sufficiently large retail space. With Gateway now out of the retail business, it must be Apple who intends to open another retail store about 200 miles north of London.
Apple Store London
Speaking of London, the Regent Street Apple store continues to take shape under the historic arches of a building once occupied in the early 1900s by Venetian glass artist Dr. Antonio Salviati. The interior of the store is empty, but the facade of the building has been thoughtfully restored to its original glory, with colorful tile mosaics depicting various coats of arms. Tipsters say store construction will accelerate over the next three months, ending with a Nov. 20th grand opening.
Apple Retail US Super Saturday
Back in the United States, Apple has said they'll have 17 more stores open by the end of the year, and apparently many of them will open on the single day of Sept. 25th—Super Saturday!
Apple Store minis
Among the grand openings will be several so-called "mini-stores" that are about one-third the size of most other stores. Initially, the smaller stores are being opened in regions already served by an Apple store, but there are hints the midget stores will eventually sprout in other regions, including on selected college campuses.
There are conflicting reports on the design of the mini-stores, the various product sections and the product mix. It's also not clear if the stores will feature the traditional stainless steel of street-side stores, or the black metal of the indoor mall stores.
Beyond 2004, tipsters have identified 19 other retail store locations in the United States, Canada, Taiwan, France and additional locations in Japan. And in each of those locations, you can expect long lines for the grand opening, just like in Osaka.
Gary Allen is the author of ifoAppleStore, which focuses on the operation of Apple's retail stores, often uncovering future locations before the mainstream press.
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