GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Brick and mortar retail ain’t dead yet


The new Apple Store at the Maine Mall.

by Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

If you have ever been in an Apple Store, you will have seen the future of retail and it is here now. I was in the Apple Store at the Maine Mall a few Saturday nights ago and was amazed to see how busy it was. The place was packed corner to corner with people of all age groups and ethnicity. And this was the new Apple Store. When we walked into the mall and went to where the Apple Store used to be, we were surprised and at first disappointed to see that it was closed. But then we saw the sign on the window saying that they had moved to a bigger location around the corner to better service their growing customer base.

“Oh yeah, sure,” I thought, thinking that they were just saying that to act like their business was increasing when actually they had probably just got a better deal on the rent. Wrong, wrong, wrong. When we came upon the new store, we could see that they had been telling the truth. It was twice as large, and it was still full of people. And the best part, there seemed to be as many Apple employees as was needed to handle all of these people.

We had not been in the store for more than a minute when a young man walked up to us and asked if he could help. And help he did. He spent over a half hour with us telling us all about the products we were interested in. Man, this guy was good.

He not only knew everything about the products, he even asked all the right questions so that he could get a better idea as to what our needs were and thus what the best product and model would be for us. We felt that we were not getting a sales pitch but rather an education about the Apple equipment, what they did and which ones we should look at that would best fit our needs.

We looked at the iPads, the Apple Watches and the iPhone. There was even a young woman with a microphone in front of a wall-to-wall screen teaching people how to best take photos with their iPhones.

And get this, nearly everyone was walking out with their smart white Apple bags, each holding Apple products costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars! Did you know that Apple retail stores yield more dollars per square foot than any other store in the world, yes, including Tiffany’s?

My point here is all about service, product knowledge, educational and informative sales. A little later, after my wife had spent $300 on a printer (and I feel I got off cheap), we walked down to the big electronics anchor store down the hall to look at a small refrigerator for her quilting studio. The place was deserted. When we looked around for help, we saw clusters of blue-shirted clerks talking and joking with each other. Once in a while one of them would turn and look at us but then go back to talking to the group of clerks he was with. Finally, one person did break away from the group and amble over to us to ask if we needed anything? When my wife asked him a question about one of the fridges she was interested in, he told her that this wasn’t his department and we would have to wait for him to find the right person in charge. And “oh, it might be a few minutes” because he was probably on break.

We don’t know if the small refrigerator expert ever came off his break, because we never bothered to stick around and wait until it was convenient for him to return. So, that big store will be out of business and they’ll be screaming to the heavens that the internet broke the brick and mortar retail business.

And to that I would say, just take a walk down the hall to the most successful brick and mortar store in the history of the world and take a page out of that book, or maybe a bite out of that apple, and you’ll see the right way to grow your business.


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