- Failure to be a growth engine for the company. Originally Apple stores helped to drive growth of Apple and introduce new customers as the stores were rolled out across the US and then worldwide. Apple retail should have been the spearhead for greater China dominance and a strong foothold in India. Both have not occurred.
- Cultural issues. Apple retail has changed from being a pleasant experience where staff were encouraged to help customers with issues (not matter what) to merely parroting a company line about why they cannot do anything with your issue because that's the company policy. Angela also kept trotting out the 'town square' community BS as well which rubs non-US citizens completely the wrong way; a US corporation trying to co-opt foreign public space for their sales offering.
- Lack of support integration. Apple has had a number of high profile support issues and failures including battery gate and the MacBook keyboard issues. Instead of becoming a proactive support channel to help customers with these issues, Apple Retail worked as the company's PR firewall... exacerbating a bad situation for customers who experienced these problems. Support times at Apple Stores have increased and the experience has worsened.
- No innovation. Apple retail hasn't significantly changed or improved since Angela came on-board. 'Today at Apple' is a re-brand of the many sessions that Apple Stores have always had. The interior design changes and architectural changes are more Jony's doing than Angela's. In 5 years most of the change has been superficial with the core changes that have evolved actually degrading customers experience.
Glad to see the exec change. Took 5 years and should have happened earlier, but better late than never.
I worked in Apple Retail under Ron Johnson and John Browett.
From what I recall, the original intent of these stores was to have them be "gathering places" for people -- similar to a town square. This concept's as old as the first of the stores.
During the ten months John Browett was in charge, the store I worked at saw significant attrition due to cut hours, an increased emphasis on offering more support than we had the resources for, and a very obvious push to attach multiple accessories onto each sale.
Those "Today at Apple" rebranding you're talking about? They were essentially gutted to quick, useless Q&A sessions when Browett worked there.
I really don't think Angela was a problem. If anything her hire was a breath of fresh air for them.
The experience from beginning to end is always - line up at the front, talk to an Apple employee, depending on whether you have an appointment or not, get shepparded to a lineup (whether at the genius bar, the teach and learn table, or the repair pickup table, etc) and wait in line until your turn.
If you are just browsing / window shopping, the experience is jam yourself into a packed tiny space packed with human smells of sweat and farts, get a stern looking up and down by the security people, and try to get a computer/phone/idevice to look at. If you take too long, other people will either try to edge you out, or eventually you get an apple employee asking whether you want to buy it or if they can show you anything.
This is NOT a gathering place/town square. Of course. Being a commercially oriented sales space it can't be because that violates the purpose of the space. I'm not saying that you can't build a space like this, but the way Apple has structured the retail stores makes it extremely sales oriented.
Taking the Starbucks example quoted below. When you go to starbucks, get a latte, and sit down to browse your computer, you don't have Starbucks employees coming to you asking if you want a pumpkin spice latte or if you want some training on how to be a coffee barista in your own home too. You just want to take a seat and do whatever - none of the business of the store employees. It's just a place to sit. Of course, you should / need to buy something to sit there, but once you are there, you usually are left alone to do whatever, meet friends, have a date, etc. That's a good "gathering space" concept.
I don't go unless I have at least an hour of spare time and whatever I need can only reasonably be accomplished at the Apple Store. The place is a zoo, even if you're just browsing it's elbow to elbow.
The employees are nice, but I am aghast every time I go at how poor of an experience it is compared to what I think Apple should be capable of. Luckily when they do finally get to me, I've always had the issue solved (usually a new device) but up until that final encounter I just feel like a number. The fact that I have to stand on a concrete floor the entire time makes me double grumpy because my old-man feet do not like it one bit.
The one difference I've had is that I'm not even getting my issues resolved anymore. (Full sob story is in my comment history.) I'm typing this on a Thinkpad X1 and gave up on Apple after 15 years.
 Does anyone else remember when Apple would give you a coffee voucher for a local cafe while you were waiting, and send you a txt message to come back to the store once your MacBook Pro was fixed or replaced? They used to be magical, and they could afford to do all that because the machines were built for life & repairs were rare. That's all gone now.
A long time ago ( I think it was 2015 ) I had expected Apple to reach 1000 Apple Store Worldwide by 2020. But just like every part of their infrastructure, ( CDN, Datacentre, Solar Energy, Recycling etc ) their "Asset-Light" strategy, being extremely conservative with any Asset has hold them back.
Just those questions alone - think about what a gathering place is supposed to be! I think people are getting way too hoodwinked by marketing speak and are forgetting how an actual gathering space might function.
As a sales space, it's designed brilliantly. People come in, they see stuff they like, they want to buy it, pay money, sale done, time to go. That is perfected by the Apple store environment, but it is very much NOT a gathering space
I would find it a lot easier if they segregated the sales associates into two distinct group. One spot if all you want to do is buy and run, and another if you want the interactive experience. Then again, I'm a self-checkout kinda guy and I'd be even happier with some version of that.
A place where community can gather for the purpose of talking/communing with one another, in a town square fashion. Protection from elements during the activity, etc.
That's where I'm coming from.
http://www.tresbohemes.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/12east... (european example)
https://www.terrain.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Innovatio... (north american style, with public seating, a semicovered event platform, often times an underground parking garage with access to public washroom)
My posts above were pertaining to indoors gathering spaces (hence the seats, hanging coats, etc) but either way, Apple stores do NOT resemble outdoors towns squares at all as well.
In SoCal, some towns like Oceanside have a very vibrant street fair that is very enjoyable.
It’s fine and really just a rip-off of Starbuck’s “third place” (which was around long before Apple used it for their retail vision).
While Apple Retail was headed by Angela however she was involved in preposterous keynote speeches about how it’s making cities better and supporting the community. It was corporate BS writ large and used as a justification for pushing large retail stores into state significant public spaces.
It’s not a town square when it’s owned and controlled by a corporation who decides what does and doesn’t occur within its boundaries.
I think Ahrendts was a great hire, and while I don’t think Apple Retail is as good as it could be, it’s also a very hard nut to crack at their scale.
There are some fairly obvious ways to tackle both of those issues that have been ignored - god forbid Apple lowered themselves to have an actual sales counter that could churn through customers who know what they want rapidly. Triage and management of support cases seems to need desperate reform (it's still great that Apple gave me a whole new Macbook last week. It's bad that it took two weeks with a dead machine before they could see me and that product reliability is going downhill so fast that this is the third time that Macbook has fried itself in two years).
Which we have.
"A question for society"? Apple's part of society, man.
I think the reason for the poor experience comes down to scale. Apple is too big now. There are just too many people. I remember when you used to be able to walk into the Genius Bar totally unannounced and you could usually get help in just a few minutes. Now you need to schedule your appointments a week in advance and you’ll only get an obscure 10:40am time slot.
Apple retail was an experience when the customer base was smaller but the iPhone completely changed that. I don’t think retail can scale that big and offer the same experience. If anything stores need to be more plentiful and smaller.
what she did was increase sales per square foot by over 20% , expanded the retail footprint globally, and made the store experience more coherent/consistent. not too shabby but also not what she was hired to do.
her problem was that she was tasked with the very difficult goal of turning apple retail into a luxury experience akin to burberry and turn apple watch into a must-have fashion accessory. she was to lay the groundwork for apple’s thrust into wearables, but she had very little control over the product (ascetic watch bands and ear tampons... i kid, i love my airpods) and no control over strategy or logistics. unlike burberry, where change cycles with the seasons, apple cycles over many years. you just don’t have enough control and urgency to make the changes apple wanted. honestly, i don’t think anyone could have accomplished that goal.
And how, exactly, do you know that was what she waas tasked with? That sounds a lot like expectations that an outsider might have placed on her based on a quick glance at her bio, but you have no idea what her tactical and strategic objectives were.
That is entirely the opposite of any experience I've had in an Apple store - they seem to have all the info they need (including my email address and card on file) at their fingertips - no re-entry or messing around.
It is my understanding that Apple stores have higher revenue per square foot than any other store in the entire history of retail, which is difficult to reconcile with your statement.
That's not a very inspiring vision.
The emphasis on retail-is-the-customer-experience as opposed to customer-experience-defines-retail is only going to cause more and more problems.
TBH I expect the next few years to be something of a meltdown for sales+service, with retail following along for the ride.
If we define online commerce as its 2019 current incarnation, I’d argue that in 2001 it wasn’t a thing.
The first sentence is correct, as I see it, but I think it's a general Apple problem and not something the stores have much to do with. If you've been given subpar products over the last several years to sell, you're still selling subpar products no matter how you dress it up. The public knows Apple hardware isn't nearly as reliable as it used to be and suffer from a wide range of problems across all of their product lines, well the major product lines. After continuing for several years, it's catching up. There isn't anything the stores can do. It's up to corporate to mandate better quality control and build quality. What they've been providing is not acceptable for many. They're losing the most die hard apple fans. Even they get tired of having to waste so much time and money and Apple is becoming harder for them to defend. You can forgive for a year, or a few years maybe, but after that it appears to be a systemic problem that no one at the top is taking serious enough. The brand is tarnished. Go back to basics.
> Apple has had a number of high profile support issues and failures including battery gate and the MacBook keyboard issues. Instead of becoming a proactive support channel to help customers with these issues, Apple Retail worked as the company's PR firewall... exacerbating a bad situation for customers who experienced these problems. Support times at Apple Stores have increased and the experience has worsened.
That is also top-down. If Apple (corporate) fights hard against people and claims there are no issues with their hardware and won't cover things like the spotlight problem new displays are having (a design flaw), or keyboards that don't work if they get dust in them (a design flaw), or the phone bends in a pocket under normal use (a design flaw), until the news gets so bad and class action lawsuits have to get filed to provide extended warranties, then I'm not sure what the store can actually do about it except put lipstick on a pig, offer an apology, and commiserate with the customers frustration.
My mother is a professional photographer. She has always been a die hard apple fan, because they made solid computers and a seamless OS. She has multiple iPads, an iPhone, iMac, Macbook Air and Macbook Pro. She does a lot of traveling. For over 10 years, she had 0 issues, except for normal wear and tear items. The last 3 years, she has been to the Apple store over 15 times, with multiple issues and hardware failures. Weeks without hardware as it had to be sent in to be repaired. Her whole life has been tied up in Apple and she loved them. Absolutely loved them. It all used to just work. They were reliable. She called me last weekend to ask what I thought about the Surface Pros and if I'd go look at some with her. I was shocked. She was steaming, she has had enough. Apple has lost her as a customer for life. There is no way she will ever try them again, no matter what they do.
They can do whatever they want with the Apple store. It won't do anything. The problem is the products they are selling don't work as well as they used to, for many people. People who buy Apple are buying into the premise it will "just work" and is "quality, premium hardware." That is the reputation their brand is built on, and what they are no longer living up to.
And prices are relatively high, and fundamental new innovation is down.
So tripartite of problems.
"After turning round the fortunes of Burberry, Angela Ahrendts is five years into reimagining Apple’s bricks-and-mortar presence. Vogue Business meets the tech behemoth's senior vice president of retail on the steps of its soon-to-be-unveiled Washington, DC, flagship"
Might well help vogue later on
Undeniably must be difficult as you grow and have so many stores, etc. But on my last Apple store trip, I had interactions with 2 employees. One incorrectly told me that there was no Smart Battery case in stock for the XR (it was available on the Apple Store app?). And another made a mistake about the length of power cable that shipped with the new MacBook Air. Kinda a bummer.
Its much easier to teach product knowledge than team interaction skills.
Apple has way more customers, way more stores, and way more products for that to be realistic.
Last time I checked this is technically correct.
The point was that it is often unnecessary as Apple terminates apps in the background. But they will usually leave a few of the most recent ones active.
It's correct, but manually managing the RAM rather than letting the OS deal with it is almost always a bad idea. iOS will kill apps when necessary, and by killing apps you're requiring them to be relaunched when you try to use them.
I would be far more focused on consistent, professional customer interactions than on random and hard-to-replicate insights into a problem. (Though, of course, diagnosing uncommon problems accurately is part of being a good tech as well.)
For those who don't remember, here's Apple's user manual for customer to replace laptop batteries themselves (PDF):
The Apple Store app doesn't show you what stock is available in each store. It shows what is available from Apple itself.
I'm sure it was all within policy but how many companies would try to put up at least a half-hearted fight?
5 tries and an hour later the computer crashed during each test. Came back 3 separate days talked to everyone I could and the computer couldn’t complete the test. Sorry you can’t get recall if the test isn’t run rule are rules.
Haven’t bought a MBP since because the new prices are insane. I’m not risking a $2.5k-3k laptop dying in a few years, or having keyboard issues, or the display-gate issue. Everything is glued in nowadays you can’t even replace simple parts.
(I'd also love to be able to just order a replacement piece online)
I went in a month ago and they quoted me >$1100 for repairs for a broken K key (the device was under warranty, and I had AppleCare+ - another $500 on top of the device cost) and I threw a fit because I felt it was absolutely ridiculous that a $4650 computer could "reasonably" lose function entirely within a half year due to a faulty butterfly key mechanism (within a YEAR!) and the guy said (no joke, brace yourselves) "I'm now terminating this interaction." He seriously said that after I responded to his initial cost estimate with absolute dejected disgust. Naturally, I felt compelled to respond with "Ok T-9000 kindly relay to SkyNet that I'm interested in communicating further with the grid."
They literally prey on people that don't know better and try to extract as much money as possible unless you aggressively respond. If people knew better, they wouldn't be able to get away with this kind of behavior. It's disgusting.
Eventually I was able to explain that I will literally never buy another Apple product again unless they completely fix the upper case or whatever the current terminology is for free. I was very vocal and unforgiving about how bad the design of the upper case is. What's hilarious is they actually started a keyboard replacement program for all models BEFORE 2017, even though after 2017 is when they took the butterfly keyboard model a step further. It's insane. Literally gaslighting with regard to what they are trying to "solve."
I got lucky - I got the issue fixed for free. It's sad that I have to fight to get decent repair service on a product that cost a small fortune, on top of a $500 repair warranty (that doesn't protect against water damage).
Either way I'm probably never buying an Apple product again. They are a shadow of their former self, and while Apple shareholders are probably collectively pissing themselves watching daily gains, they are moving to this cloud services model that I feel will eventually fail to catch on. It's just so expensive when you compare alternatives. Probably will take around a half decade or so, but eventually it will be felt. And if they can't move toward "larger plays" like autonomous vehicles (also certainly oriented as a service based model), the cloud pure play won't exist forever. It's just too expensive for the every day citizen.
Reading what you said to them I am surprised Security didn't throw you out.
Also Apple Care+ is $379 in the US, not $500.
Could it be that Apple is searching for someone to head retail and that this is just an interim appointment?
Alas, I found the MacBooks at the far back corner of the store with no one around it, and they only had one table dedicated to the MacBook with only 1 laptop per model.
Everything seems generally well run.
What's the fuss?
Apple Retail needs to be executed well, and it's a strategic pillar, but really in the end the stores in and of themselves are not going to be the story.
I wonder what the real issues are.
I wonder how involved she was in pricing/promotional aspects, because her strategic imperative on pricing may be a source of the problem.
Apple is getting a little expensive for it's britches and they have a great brand, but this is not Burberry, it's tech, so utility factors in strongly. If she was behind the expensive mac story ... then maybe. But somehow I doubt it.
I wonder what the real story is ...