A Glimpse at the Future of Apple Retail

Nick Statt for The Verge documents the unveiling of Apple’s new flagship retail store in San Francisco:

The new store, which opens this Saturday, includes 42-foot sliding glass doors that double as two-story windows, a 6K video screen on the second floor, and living trees lining its new customer support section. It also sports a backyard “forum” that will be open 24 hours a day, featuring a 50-foot green wall, free Wi-Fi, and 47-year-old restored fountain from San Francisco sculptor Ruth Asawa.

Probably best that you scroll right down and click through the link for photos - it’s really gorgeous. (These ones from Dezeen are better, though.)

There’s no doubt this location, and the others that adopt its new features, will shift how customers think of Apple retail. Whether the company can become an artistic centerpiece for communities will still depend on how sincere it is about bringing in local talent and using its space for more than just marketing. But as it has in the past, Apple appears intent on making sure its stores are destinations distinct from the act of buying a new iPhone. “This is more than just a store,” Ahrendts says. “We want people to say, ‘Hey, meet me at Apple.’”

This definitely clicked with me. Ahrendts makes it obvious now what Apple’s going for: making the Apple Store not just a retail store or an educational center, but a cultural center. Kind of like how Starbucks made the coffeeshop more than just a place to get coffee.

A few takeaways:

  • Big props to Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s retail VP and the one largely responsible for their retail overhaul the past few years (alongside Design VP Jony Ive and architecture firm Foster + Partners). Great hire, and good to see that the train’s still rolling with this new store.
  • Seems that the new design language for retail nowadays involves a lot of wood, as opposed to the Jobsian matte grey panelling. I quite like it - it introduces warmer tones to the store, which is fitting given that Apple’s Gold and Rose Gold devices do the same for Apple’s product portfolio.
  • Also seems like the gleaming white logo’s been replaced by a mirror finish. Personally not a fan, judging from the photos - the distorted reflection doesn’t do it any good. Reminds me of the mirrored edge on Steve Jobs’ yacht designed with Philippe Starck - a little gaudy and unrefined compared to the rest of the structure.
  • A little off-putting at first seeing solid pillars in Apple’s usually all-glass facade. Cool thing that they’re actually part of huge sliding doors. Probably would’ve preferred rotating glass panels like they’ve shown before, though.
  • The Genius Grove doesn’t seem to have any seats by the few tables that are there. Good luck trying to bring a Mac in - seems that they had iOS devices in mind coming up with the Grove.