Being in the retail business for about 25 years or so, I often dream of what the perfect retail scenario would be like…Money would be no object to spend on the customer experience including unlimited sales/service help on the floor; very high margins with little or no markdowns; very heavy and constant traffic due to high brand recognition and enthusiasm; smart and clean store decor; just in time inventory deliveries; and enough time and capital to train staff and be able to spend hours with any customer that desires it…
Welcome to Apple Retail!
It hardly seems fair but they have been so logical in their execution that it is a lesson in simplicity and common sense. I have long believed that your best vehicle for marketing your product and your concept, especially for a mall based retailer, is by ensuring you have adequate staff “coverage” on the sales floor at all times so that every single customer regardless the time of day, can receive the ultimate experience. This is one’s primary marketing expense. I would actually extract millions of dollars from the marketing budgets in any circumstance to invest on the floor in hours and in training.
The other major issue for retailers today is inventory control on the sales floor from presentation and loss prevention standpoints. Apple has figured this out – no inventory on the floor (with the exception of accessories and some software near the back of the store near the cashwraps), only demonstration models of every single piece of hardware Apple makes. All other merchandise is stored in the back room and deliveries are daily based on what sold the previous day.
Not only is the staff plentiful at any given point during the day, but they are rabid Apple fans. The staff does not need to be “sold” on the company or the product, they are already enthusiastic users and experts. Not only do they demonstrate the product and help guide customers to the right machines, but they sit for hours at the “Genius Bar” where they help you re-configure your Mac computers or ipods or fix any problems you may have – for free!!! That is the ultimate technology customer experience.
By the way, there are no markdowns or sales. There are no promotional signs. There are clever and witty and compelling campaigns that draw customers in the doors. The store design lends itself to easy circulation and navigation of that high traffic and allows customers to see the entire store easily.
The sales volumes are huge due to the high average retail price of the product they carry and the brand name recognition that drives the huge amount of traffic. Therefore, their costs of operating in the malls as a percent of sales will be lower than anyone else due to sheer volume (with the exception or maybe allowing for the wage costs).
There is certainly a buzz to the Apple brand and has been for some time. The stores capture that buzz brilliantly and enhance the experience through staff deployment and minimalist merchandising. Does this store rock your world too as a retailer and/or a customer? I would love to know.
If I had to close my eyes and dream of the perfect retail scenario, Apple is the closest thing to perfection today.