Star Wars merchandise is a big deal in the retail world, especially when it coincides with a new film in the main saga. Two years ago, Disney held the first ‘Force Friday’ to kickoff the launch of Star Wars toys and other products tied to The Force Awakens. Now the Mouse House has set September 1 as ‘Force Friday II.’ And this time around, there’s an AR experience tied to the launch called Find the Force, which Apple will be involved in hosting.
Beginning on Force Friday II, Apple Stores, along with other popular retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, will begin selling Star Wars: The Last Jedi merchandise and play host to Find the Force, which lasts through September 3. During that time, shoppers can use the Star Wars iOS app to scan in-store displays as part of an AR treasure hunt. When the display is scanned, it will reveal a Star Wars character who appears through AR in the store. In total there are 15 characters to find over the three-day window. If you plan to participate in Find the Force, it’s best to download the Star Wars app now and launch the feature ahead of time, as it requires a substantial in-app download before you’re up and running.
With the launch of iOS 11 and ARKit-powered apps later in the month, September is shaping up to be a big month for augmented reality.
Apple has opened registration for its Today at Apple classes that were announced last month as part of the redesign of its retail stores. The presentations and hands-on sessions, which feature topics like photography, programming, design, art, and music, are available in hundreds Apple retail stores.
Apple has created a new website called ‘Today at Apple’ to spotlight special sessions and let users search for topics that interest them. If you have locations services turned on, Today at Apple uses your location to find nearby events. Users can also filter sessions by topic and date.
Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Retail, was interviewed by Daniel Roth of LinkedIn about the future of retail and the new Today at Apple concept. Retailers have been failing at an increasing rate in the US, in part due to competition from online stores. According to Ahrendts, retailers need to adapt by focusing more on shoppers’ experiences. Ahrendts also detailed some of the store changes being rolled out to support Today at Apple, including additional seating, audio equipment modifications, and the installation of 50,000 beacons in 30 countries.
You can watch LinkedIn’s interview with Angela Ahrendts after the break.
Apple announced a major redesign of its retail stores today. The changes combine alterations to the physical space of some stores as well as a new series of events called ‘Today at Apple.’
The 100 largest Apple Stores will be redesigned to include live trees, meeting spaces, and screens similar to the upgrades that Apple’s Union Square store in San Francisco received last year. The Genius Bar will be renamed the Genius Grove in a nod to the addition of trees.
Apple Stores will also add a series of educational sessions in 495 locations that will launch at the end of May. The program is called ‘Today at Apple’ and will feature a wide range of presentations and hands-on sessions covering topics like photography, programming, design, art, and music. Sessions will be led by Creative Pros, a new retail store position filled by people with deep domain knowledge in the subjects they teach. In some cities, sessions will also be taught by world-class artists, musicians, and the like.
First rumored by Bloomberg last week, Apple has updated its Apple Store app to include personalized product recommendations that use customers’ buying history to make suggestions. Contrary to rumors, the recommendations are not part of a separate ‘For You’ tab in the Apple Store app. Instead, product recommendations and local Apple Store events are included under the app’s ‘Discover’ tab. In addition, Apple has unified the Apple Store iPhone and iPad apps into a single Universal app that is available to download free from the App Store.
Bloomberg reports that Apple has been denied a key exemption that will likely scuttle Apple's plans in the short term to open official Apple Retail Stores in India:
India’s finance minister has ratified a decision that Apple Inc. must meet local sourcing rules to open its own stores, according to people familiar with the matter, dealing what may be a fatal blow to the iPhone maker’s effort to open retail outlets in the country.
Minister Arun Jaitley decided to support the decision by India’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board that Apple will have to procure 30 percent of components locally if it wants to sell through its own retail stores, said the people, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. The company makes most of its products in China and doesn’t currently meet that criteria.
It comes after another government panel had recommended, in late April, that Apple be granted the exemption. But more significantly, today's move comes after Tim Cook visited India in his first official trip to the country as CEO of Apple.
The decision by India's finance minister may not be the last word, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could theoretically intervene. During Cook's trip to India he met with Prime Minister Modi and Apple's retail plans were reportedly discussed, as was Modi's "Made in India" program which encourages foreign companies to manufacture in India. In public comments during the week Cook suggested that Apple was looking to establish a facility in India that would refurbish old iPhones for resale in India, but had no plans for other manufacturing at this stage.
If you're interested in reading more about Cook's week-long tour of India and China (which occurred last week), I wrote about the context of the trip as well as providing a timeline of what actually happened.
Apple today revealed its new store on San Francisco’s Union Square, offering many new features and services rolling out to Apple retail stores worldwide. The new store will open its signature 42-foot tall sliding glass doors to customers on Saturday, May 21 at 10 a.m.
“Fifteen years ago today Apple opened its first two stores and we’re thrilled to mark the occasion with the opening of Apple Union Square in San Francisco,” said Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president of Retail and Online Stores. “We are not just evolving our store design, but its purpose and greater role in the community as we educate and entertain visitors and serve our network of local entrepreneurs."
Apple Union Square’s glass doors open the store to Post Street and Union Square. The building’s unique position connects San Francisco’s most famous square to a rejuvenated plaza to the north, creating a beautiful gathering place for the community. The art-filled plaza offers seating, public Wi-Fi, a 50-foot tall “green wall” and regular acoustic performances. The store is powered by 100 percent renewable energy, including power produced by photovoltaic panels integrated into the building’s roof.
Matthew Panzarino, Rene Ritchie, and Harry McCracken have shared photos of the new location in San Francisco, which include a "Genius Grove" and a "Plaza" that will only be found at the "most significant stores". The new elements are looking good and I like the community ideas; I wonder if we'll ever get something like this in Rome.
Apple launched a redesign of their website today, integrating the product presentation and shopping experiences into one and tweaking the navigation bar with different menu items and icons.
Notably, the separate store.apple.com website is no more, as it now simply leads to apple.com with store pages available at apple.com/shop/ URLs.
As John Gruber writes:
Knowing what I know about the old online store, this was a massive behind-the-scenes undertaking, but the result looks and works like what most people would have expected all along. (Someone should count the instances of “finally” in the headlines about this change.) The old two-site approach was like having separate rooms in a physical retail store — a showroom up front, and a sales room in the back. Now it’s just one room. (And in another subtle parallel to the physical Apple stores, the website now uses a shopping bag instead of a cart.)
Speaking to TechCrunch, an Apple spokesperson explained why the company decided to make this change:
“We redesigned Apple.com knowing that our customers want to explore, research and shop in one place,” said an Apple spokesperson in a statement. “The new Apple.com takes the very best of our existing site and our online store to give customers one simple destination to learn and buy without navigating between two different sites. We’ve also improved several of the site’s features to make shopping easier than ever for our customers.”
The updated website will likely make for an easier shopping flow – especially on smartphones – as there's less switching contexts between viewing and buying because everything's integrated. It'll be interesting to see if updating the store with new products will still require Apple to bring the store down, or if they will appear and propagate for everyone across the world like the new website did today. Probably a good change, but let's pour one out for Is The Apple Store Down.
Gary Allen announced on Friday that he would stop writing new articles for ifo Apple Store, the website he has been running for 14 years. Over the years, Allen and ifo Apple Store has became an invaluable resource for news, data and analysis relating to Apple's rapidly expanding retail efforts.
After following Apple retail for 14 years, I’ve reached a happy ending, and am gracefully backing away from the crazy world of following the company and its stores. No more stories or analysis, or flying out to far-flung locations to join overnight crowds,waiting for the excitement of new store opening (NSO). I began this Web site as simply a way of celebrating the fun of grand openings and the close friendship of the people I met when I arrived in a new country or city. My first overnight camp-out was with my son Devin on the sidewalk in front of the epic Palo Alto store in October 2001, I continued to other store openings with him in China, Australia, UK and other countries. I’ve visited over 140 stores around the world.
ifo Apple Store has been in my RSS feed for many of those years and I am genuinely sad to hear that Allen is winding down operations. Many of the articles I've written about Apple's retail operations have been informed in some way by the work done by Allen. That includes this article from late-2012 on Apple's Retail Expansion, which is one of the articles I am most proud of, and it probably wouldn't exist without ifo Apple Store.
Thank you, Gary Allen. We wish you all the best.
ifoAppleStore's Gary Allen has posted photos of the new back-lit wall graphics Apple has begun installing at selected retail stores, noting the change of mood from previous wall graphics:
The new graphics were photographed like magazine ads, showing the iPad/iPhone being used in actual situations, complete with their surrounding people and places. Their colors, tone and brightness is much richer and darker than the previous graphics, a noticeable difference that’s been the subject of Tweets and other on-line postings by store employees and visitors.
I don't know if this is one of the first results of Angela Ahrendts' work, but I like the lifestyle approach. Showing what you can do with a product is, I think, a more powerful (and relatable) message than a product closeup shot, especially when you're inside an Apple Store and the product is already there on a table.