On May 19, 2001, Apple opened its first two retail stores in Tyson Corner, Virginia and Glendale, Calfornia. The stores launched to much fanfare and excitement, with late Apple CEO Steve Jobs holding a commemorative press event just days before and taking journalists on a personal tour. Fast forward 13 years later, and the Apple Store is one of the largest retail operations in the world, with over 424 stores in 16 countries, of which 254 are located in the United States alone.
The history of the Apple Store dates back to the late 90s. Apple had initially relied on retailers such as Sears, Best Buy and Computer City to sell its products, but soon found that customers were dealing with poorly-trained and ill-mannered retail staff that did not foster customer loyalty to Apple and did not help to differentiate the Mac user experience from Windows. As a result, Jobs made a decision then to severe ties with every retailer and embark on a plan to develop Apple’s own retail operations.
The late Apple co-founder meticulously scrutinised every detail of the development of the Apple Store, from design to marketing, in order to ensure that the company’s brand message was communicated correctly to customers through the presentation of its products. At the company’s third-quarter earnings call in 2001, Jobs said that the opening of the first two Apple Retail Stores was “perhaps the most strategic event of the quarter.”
Apple’s retail operations have grown significantly over the years, with the company reporting revenue of US$20.23 billion (S$25.29 billion) for its retail segment in 2013. This represents an almost 1,065-fold increase from 2001 when the company earned US$19 million from its first year of retail sales.
Apple currently has 424 stores in 16 countries, with its latest store opening in Istanbul, Turkey this past week. The company has not set up an Apple Store here in Singapore, and instead relies on authorised premium resellers to sell its products. Majority of Apple’s retail stores are located in the U.S., as illustrated in the graphic below which charts the growth of Apple Stores there over the years:
Despite the success of its stores, Apple is not resting on its laurels. The company recently hired a new Senior VP of Retail, Angela Ahrendts – who was previously the CEO of British fashion giant Burberry – to helm its retail operations. The company also launched a new iPhone upgrade event at its U.S. stores this month, under which customers with older models of iPhones would be offered higher trade-in values for their devices, in a bid to boost sales of its smartphones through its brick-and-mortar stores.