Apple Computer is to open its second branded bricks-and-mortar store in London, as its sales focus shifts to a retail-led environment.
The store, at Brent Cross shopping centre in North-west London, will bring the number of Apple retail outlets in the UK to six. Three stores are open already – in London’s Regent Street, Kent’s Bluewater shopping centre and the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham – with two more due to open in Manchester and Sheffield. Apple opened its first UK store in autumn last year (MW September 20, 2004).
Apple aims to create a consumer experience, where customers can try out and interact with products before they decide to buy – the company focuses on online sales. Apple, known the world over for its iconic iPod MP3 player, has more than 100 stores in the US, as well as three in Japan and one in Canada.
The stores have a “Genius Bar”, where consumers can ask for technical assistance from Apple experts. There are also areas dedicated to personal computing and to music, where Apple’s iTunes download service and the iPod are promoted.
In the UK, Apple distributes its products through its online store and Apple Centre concessions. In the past year, it has gained a huge high street presence following agreements to sell its products, predominantly the iPod and iPod Mini brands, through retailers including Boots, Dixons and PC World.
Agreements with retailers and hardware manufacturers have seen Apple’s brand recognition soar and sales of the iPod now outnumber sales of its computer products. However, last week PC manufacturer Hewlett-Packard confirmed that it has terminated its agreement to sell Apple products through its retail distribution partners, saying that the deal was no longer consistent with its own strategy.