Good (but not free) story today in the Wall Street Journal about how Apple has made its retail presence such a positive success.
Walk into an Apple Store and you'll feel less like you are in a retail outlet (where are the cash registers and checkout counters) and more like you are in a museum. Well before the iPad made touch a natural gesture, and even as most retailers hid their best products behind glass, Apple made their stores a touch-worthy experience. Touch anything, stay as long as you want, ask as many questions as necessary and feel free to borrow our WiFi.
Apparently nothing is left to chance – even the interaction between potential customers and store employees is carefully scripted, not unlike a Steve Jobs' keynote presentation. And it should be this way. What Apple knows (and most other retailers forget) is that a company's lasting (or fleeting) relationship with their customers begins immediately after customers purchase something from you. Apple's careful cultivation of that experience is one of the many magic (and tightly managed) elements of the Apple brand. Apple has to be more than the sum of its employees – it has to become an experience – borrowed from Disney and wielded like Nike – that captivates and motivates normal people to action. And that action – buying something – now more than ever starts in an Apple Store.
So credit Ron Johnson, soon to be former Apple Executive and new JCPenney President and CEO, for making the experience one that drives millions of people to otherwise boring and depressing indoor malls. We can only hope that the Apple Magic will rub off and the other mall anchor store can become as much a draw for Dockers and vacuum cleaners and family portraits as Apple is for irresistable technology.
BTW, did you know that the "C" in "JCPenney" stands for "Cash"? Just the announcement of Ron as a JCPenney employee increased the market value of JCP by $1B. Now that's cash!