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Is Apple to blame for the High Street's struggles?

Ashleigh Allsopp | Feb. 18, 2013
The recent failure of retailers such as HMV, Jessops, Blockbuster, Game, Comet and, and reports suggesting that 600 shops closed last year, have raised the question about what's to blame for the high street's struggles. Apple on the other hand is seeing huge success. What is Apple doing right? And is its success to blame for the failures of others?

It's about the experience

Johnson, who went on to become CEO of JC Penney, has said that the Apple Store has become the "most productive in the world."

In an interview last year, Johnson said: "People come to the store, and that's because the store offers something people need, which is really help and support and connecting."

"These Apple stores are like magnets for people," he continued. "If you really look at what happens in an Apple store, it's connections happening. It's a genius with a person trying to solve a problem. It's someone getting personal training. It's someone getting their products set up before they leave the store. It's someone learning something that might change their life."

The problem is that "very few retail stores have truly navigated this digital future and how digital and physical worlds come together," Johnson said. The physical store is "indispensable in a digital world", he said, adding: Historically stores have been designed to "pick something up. They're very transactional. They're not experiential."

These stores are competing with the internet where you can: "search [for] anything you want, get it today from your phone and have it delivered to your door." The only answer is for the store to "offer so much more."

Johnson said that, for JC Penney, he would borrow Apple's successful Genius Bar concept. "Buying a pair of jeans is actually quite hard for people. There are a lot of fits, a lot of finishes. We're putting in what's called a Denim Bar with Levis," he explained.

Johnson also explained that JC Penney could save "half a billion dollars a year" currently spent on the checkout process. "Well that can be done through technology," he revealed. "You'll be able to check out anywhere anytime, from anyone including yourself, because we're going to roll out self checkout to our stores."

An internal video from 2011, which surfaced on the web in November, shows Johnson and his colleague, vice president of retail development, Bob Bridger talk about Apple's retail philosophy.

"We discovered that if you can tailor a store uniquely to its setting it can actually improve communities," Johnson claims.

"It's about getting out into the street," said Bridger. "Feeling what the locals feel and trying to unlock what they miss.

Once Apple has found the right location the company decides what kind of store to create. This could be "something very modern, like Fifth Avenue" or "something very historic, like our store in Regents Street," says Johnson.

The result will be: "Something specifically created for that location, for that market, for those customers" adds Bridger. "Our primary objective is to create a place that people will love."


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