Earlier today, Apple officially opened their new flagship retail store in Rome, Italy. Located on the popular Via del Corso street in the city’s historical center, the new store – which we previously covered here – is located in the historic Palazzo Marignoli, a 19th century building that has been renovated by Apple and painstakingly restored to its former glory.
I, along with our designer and photographer Silvia Gatta, was able to visit the Via del Corso store yesterday ahead of its grand opening to the public. Coincidentally, the occasion also marked the first time Silvia and I were able to visit the center of Rome free of red-zone restrictions since October 2019, when we took an amazing tour of Rome to demonstrate the iPhone 11’s camera capabilities before the pandemic hit our country in early 2020.
Besides the underlying sense of euphoria for seeing the Spanish Steps again and being around tourists for the first time in nearly 18 months, we came away impressed with what Apple has accomplished with its new Rome retail store. The Via del Corso store is an outstanding exercise in blending Rome’s rich architectural history with the modern reality of Apple’s computers and wearable devices – a challenge that the company didn’t take upon lightly, and which has, in fact, shaped the overall identity of the Via del Corso store.
Let’s take a look.
Today, Apple took the wraps off its latest flagship store in the heart of Rome’s Via del Corso shopping district. The store is Apple’s first in Rome’s historic center, although the company has long had a presence in Rome and other parts of Italy, including another flagship store that was opened in Milan in 2018. The new Rome location isn’t open yet but will be soon.
As with many of Apple’s other flagship stores around the world, restoration of the historic location was spearheaded by the architectural firm Foster + Partners. The new store is located next to Piazza di San Silvestro, in the center of Rome within a short distance of landmarks like the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain.
Palazzo Marignoli, the building in which Apple’s new store is housed, has been carefully restored to its late 19th century glory. The palazzo once housed Caffè Aragno, a destination for writers, painters, and other creatives of Rome, a history that fits nicely with Apple’s vision of its flagship stores as destinations for creativity through technology.
In fact, you can see from the photo above, which was taken earlier today, that the window coverings say ‘Creativi dentro’ or ‘Creative inside.’ According to Apple, the message honors Rome’s rich cultural history embodied by Carrara marble, the predominant stone used in the store’s construction and the material that has been used by Roman architects and sculptors for centuries to create artistic masterpieces.
The same marble is incorporated into the Apple logo which weaves the company’s signature six colors into the veins of the stone. According to Apple, the logo symbolizes the fusion of Rome’s cultural history with Apple’s mission to provide tools that unlock everyone’s creativity with programs like those that will be led by Apple Creatives in the Via del Corso store when it opens to the public.
Alessandra Gatta contributed to this story with Italian-English translations.
If you’re an Apple Card user, starting today purchases directly from Apple will offer a new payment option: 0% financing monthly installments using Apple Card.
Before today, 0% financing with Apple Card has been available for new iPhone purchases, but on a recent quarterly earnings call Tim Cook shared that the company was planning to expand that option to more product categories. One week before WWDC kicks off, Apple has launched that expanded array of financing options for its other products. If you live in the US – the only place Apple Card is currently available – then when using the Apple Store app or browsing the store at apple.com, you’ll see monthly payments as a new option.
Pay for new Apple products over time, interest-free with Apple Card. Just select Apple Card Monthly Installments when you check out.
The length of the 0% financing offer varies based on the product you purchase. Lower cost products such as AirPods and AirPods Pro offer 6-month payment plans, whereas more expensive products like iPads and Macs offer 12-month plans. Curiously, the Apple Watch is the one major product without financing options available.
Fun fact: thanks to Apple Card monthly installments you can now get a maxed-out rack-mountable Mac Pro for the low price of just $4,491.58 per month.
After the set period for 0% financing expires, the remaining balance of the product will be charged to your Apple Card and be subject to your standard interest rate.
I’ve had an Apple Card since the product first launched, and love it. Adding new, more flexible payment options for Apple purchases seems like a no-brainer new option, and I’m sure I’ll be using it for my next big purchase.
Apple has released a statement from CEO Tim Cook about the company’s response to COVID-19. Among other things, the company is closing all of its retail locations outside Greater China until March 27, 2020. Cook said:
We will be closing all of our retail stores outside of Greater China until March 27. We are committed to providing exceptional service to our customers. Our online stores are open at www.apple.com, or you can download the Apple Store app on the App Store. For service and support, customers can visit support.apple.com. I want to thank our extraordinary Retail teams for their dedication to enriching our customers’ lives. We are all so grateful to you.
Apple is also moving to flexible work arrangements for employees outside of Greater China, extending leave benefits, and paying hourly workers in line with business as usual operations.
Apple’s retail stores are often crowded, especially on weekends, so it’s good to see the company take these measures for the safety of its customers and employees.
Today alongside the launch of the iPhone 11 line and Apple Watch Series 5, Apple reopened its long-under-construction Apple Fifth Avenue retail location. First closed in January 2017 and relocated to a temporary space nearby, the new Fifth Avenue opens as the largest Apple Store in the world; it also remains the only location open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
Following news earlier this summer that Apple was partnering with Best Buy for expanded repair service, today the company has announced another initiative to make device repairs more accessible:
“To better meet our customers’ needs, we’re making it easier for independent providers across the US to tap into the same resources as our Apple Authorized Service Provider network,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “When a repair is needed, a customer should have confidence the repair is done right. We believe the safest and most reliable repair is one handled by a trained technician using genuine parts that have been properly engineered and rigorously tested.”
Independent repair providers can join Apple’s new program at no cost, provided they have an Apple-certified technician on staff. Joining provides a variety of benefits:
Apple will provide more independent repair businesses — large or small — with the same genuine parts, tools, training, repair manuals and diagnostics as its Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASPs). The program is launching in the US with plans to expand to other countries.
Apple’s moves this summer to make authorized repairs more accessible from outside an Apple Store reflect the company’s struggles to keep up with accelerated repair demand from a growing user base. While repairs will likely always be a core element of Apple Stores, by pushing more people to third-party providers, Apple can perhaps make its retail locations less crowded and thus more pleasant to visit moving forward.
Michael Steeber reports for 9to5Mac on some interesting developments he’s observed in certain Apple Stores recently:
Apple is evolving its in-store shopping experience with signage and display fixtures that remove ambiguity and encourage increased hands-on interaction with products. New designs that have been spotted in multiple locations reflect the changing requirements of busy stores and appear to address common customer needs.
He mentions things like signs indicating checkout zones, a new table guide spelling out differences between iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max, and more customer-friendly Watch displays.
The new retail design language Apple began rolling out in 2015 brought visual simplicity by deemphasizing signage, logos, and extraneous store fixtures. While more aesthetically pleasing, some customers have found contemporary stores challenging to navigate. These new fixtures and signs show that Apple is willing to fine-tune the balance between appearance and function.
Normally these changes might go overlooked, particularly since they’re currently only in a handful of stores, but they’re noteworthy for reasons of timing. Apple’s former head of retail, Angela Ahrendts, was recently succeeded by Deirdre O’Brien, and while all signs point to Ahrendts’ departure being amicable, one common complaint regarding her tenure is that Apple Stores became less functional shopping places despite growing unquestionably more beautiful and lavish in design. These few scattered signs of change spotted by Steeber indicate an early priority shift coming from Apple’s new SVP of Retail.
Molly McHugh writing for The Ringer:
The saturation of iOS and Mac products means more and more people own Apple devices—which means more and more people need help using them. Each iOS and MacOS release reveals a new suite of tools and capabilities, but also new challenges and complications (and sometimes bugs). At the same time, Apple’s Genius Bar has become a purgatory no iDevice owner wants to find themselves stuck in.
That in a nutshell is one of the greatest challenges facing Apple retail today, and one that’s been years in the making. It’s not really surprising either. Especially since the introduction of the iPhone, the number of Apple devices in consumers’ hands has grown exponentially, while the number of Apple Stores and Geniuses that work in them has not.
McHugh ultimately resorted to a third-party repair shop to solve a software problem with Voice Memos and had a good experience. The story, however, strikes an increasingly common refrain that highlights a problem Apple needs to address.
Apple has announced a major change to its executive team: Angela Ahrendts, the company’s Senior Vice President of Retail, is leaving the company this April. Stepping in to fill her big shoes is Deirdre O’Brien, whose title before today was Vice President of People; O’Brien is now taking on the role of Senior Vice President of Retail + People.
In her expanded role, Deirdre will bring her three decades of Apple experience to lead the company’s global retail reach, focused on the connection between the customer and the people and processes that serve them. She will continue to lead the People team, overseeing all People-related functions, including talent development and Apple University, recruiting, employee relations and experience, business partnership, benefits, compensation, and inclusion and diversity.
Ahrendts is one of Apple’s most visible executives, with regular appearance at keynote events and frequent interactions with Apple retail staff through in-house messaging. Her five years at Apple have made a significant impact on the company, as she oversaw both the introduction of the Today at Apple program and a new design language for Apple’s retail stores, which have grown more physically impressive and unique during her time.