Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Method (and Man) Behind the Apple Store

This week I've been working on the cover story for March's FUNWORLD, which will feature the new Las Vegas Springs Preserve. For the story I interviewed the preserve's general curator, Jay Nichols, who has been in the museum biz for 25 years.

During our interview, I was surprised to learn Nichols was part of the team that helped Apple CEO Steve Jobs launch the first wave of the now uber-popular Apple stores. It makes sense, because the products are put on display in a way reminiscent of a museum: they're well lit, unencumbered by surrounding clutter, and sometimes even have their own pedestals.

“That was Mr. Jobs’ intent, that those stores would be different and a cut above,” Nichols said of the store’s uniqueness. “Literally everything in the store is custom-made—there’s nothing off the shelf—right down to the little wire racks. It’s one of the most expensive retail spaces there is.”

The space is a natural extension of the clean, artistic designs of Apple products, which seem to drip with cool; the store has thus become a popular hangout spot at your typical mall.

Granted, the average retail space in our industry doesn't have the budget to be as unusual and outside the box as Apple, but the idea of treating merchandise like displays in a museum struck me as something others could apply to their own operations with a bit of creativity. It seems to me the overriding idea is if you treat your products like they're something worthwhile and special, the store will cultivate that personality and naturally cause visitors to see the merchandise in a new light, too. Obviously you have to have quality items to back that up, but anything above and beyond can't hurt, right?

I'll throw it out to the readers: If anyone has any other retail-display ideas along these lines or has tried something similar, please share them in the comments. And be sure to look for more of my interview with Nichols in the March issue of FUNWORLD.

1 comment:

Marion Hixon said...

Great post, Jeremy. When you were talking about the Apple stores treating their merchandise like museum displays, it reminded me of the Toys R Us store in New York's Time Square.
The store sections off their merchandise into specialized sections that feel like exhibits: Barbie products are encompassed in a life-size Barbie dream house that visitors walk through, different colored M&Ms and candies fill clear tubes that stretch to the ceiling, and a replica Empire State Building made of LEGOs sits among the LEGO section. Even though the Times Square location has the same toys as stores across the country, the visual appeal they use in their display truly entices customers.
It's definitely a tip parks and attractions can use in their retail areas as aesthetics can really draw a guest in and make them want to take a piece of the experience home.