It was just recently that Apple retail stores celebrated their 10th year anniversary with some staggering results. Q1 sales figures are up $1.5 billion to $3.2 billion, a 90% increase from Q1 last year. The iPad definitely had something to do with this as Apple sold about 4.7 million iPads in Q1 this year and unit sales estimates for 2011 are around 44 million and thanks to Apple's retail success their financial statements aren't the only things sparking like a Twilight movie.
I know that making a pilgrimage to the nearest Apple store is a common occurrence for those enamored by shiny objects, so it comes as no surprise that shiny retail stores for shiny products has ended up a resounding success. Ron Johnson, who is well known in the industry for his imagination, is credited with the success Apple is experiencing in the retail store department. He is also responsible for the ironically named "Genius Bar" that Steve Jobs wasn't a fan of right away. Michael Graves who is one of the "New York Five," a influential architect group, said that Johnson was way ahead of the game when it came to knowing what designs role would play in the future of retail stores. Apple analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray seems to agree,
They basically took the old book of retail and threw it out and started over. The irony of the whole Apple retail story is that nobody believed it could work. Nobody believed a computer maker would make a good computer retailer.
Even non Apple people have taken risks by exposing themselves to dangerous amounts of Appleation, hit the break to find out more.
Believe it or not I have been in several Apple stores and putting all personal prejudices aside, my retail store experience was pretty good, aside from when I wasn't being asked to leave for various reasons. The stores do have a nice ambiance and the employees are always friendly and attentive before you punch a hole in their dreams. I will give Apple credit for making things look great. From their retail stores to their products, it's true that most PC equivalents will never look that good.
Since this is as close as I will ever get to drinking the Apple Kool-Aid I'm going to keep giving credit where credit is due. I can't think of any other company whose done a better job of inspiring loyalty in those who are incapable of thinking for themselves. They are truly the masters of marketing, which other companies like Microsoft might need a little help with, but they don't need to rely on that so much because of actual people-centered innovation.
Now, if you're a company that depends on repackaging old technology and reselling it as the latest and greatest for twice the price, you better be on top of your marketing game because your products can't speak for themselves. I remember having a conversation about this with our CEO Scott Ertz one day who said, "Apple is living proof that companies with the best products don't always sell the most." So true.