24 September 2010
Posted in Reports
Four things stick in my mind from my visit a couple of days ago to the new Apple Store in Covent Garden...it's huge, it's incredibly impressive, it was relatively deserted, and that tutorial/demonstration area is in completely the wrong place in the store.
Having lived in London for 6 years in the late 80's/early 90's, I was expecting the shop to be incredibly busy at around 11am when I visited. But even Covent Garden itself wasn't that busy. Speaking to one of the store staff, he did mention that the store had been incredibly hectic in the first few opening weeks, but friends also told me that it picked up considerably in the afternoon. Compare this to the Regent Street store, which I had visited the day before and again a few hours after my Covent Garden visit, and Regent Street was pumping....almost annoyingly so.
The Covent Garden store is tucked away nicely in an area of the Covent Garden market. Like all stores in the area, the signage is minimal, and even looking at the arches that make up the outside of the building, you don't really appreciate what you are in for until you move in through the archway. Then, you see the open doors of the store awaiting you, and a huge expanse of store space.
Entering the front doors, you come across a long section of tables, with various Apple products on them, and then in the very centre of the downstairs space is the tutorial/demonstration section. Unlike other Apple Stores that have dedicated seating and a theatre-like arrangement, here it is more open, with the demonstration screens on the wall and visitors able to either stand and listen or sit at one of the tables nearby with Apple products on them. The problems was that the space was too big and felt informal, meaning you didn't realise that the person standing there was actually halfway through a lesson. The first one I sat in on saw the store worker compete with the street noise of a jack hammer and lose, so I never heard a word. The second one again had a feeling of informality that meant I switched off from what the demonstrator was saying and checked my emails. If Apple want to retain classes in that shop, they need to make that area more formal and rigid or at least more obvious.
Moving upstairs takes you to more space for merchandise and to the Genius Bar, which was a very good size. I also noticed that the staff running one-to-one lessons, actually had small mics, so that everyone at the table could hear them. This seems common in all the stores now that I have visited in London (3 in total now) and either suggests the stores are just a tad too noisy, or that they want to make sure that everyone hears. There was also a third floor that was smaller but had more third-party products to buy.
Having seen quite a few stores now, I have to confess that I was a little blasé about going to the Covent Garden store, particularly after walking into the bedlam of the Regent Street store and being disappointed at how busy and noisy it seemed. Spending a couple of hours at Covent Garden was a pleasant surprise after that....perhaps one of my most pleasant in an Apple Store.
If I was still living in London, and if I knew I could go back with the same amount of people in the shop at the time I visited, then I would certainly make frequent trips to the store.