This promises to be a huge Christmas for Apple (AAPL) -- what with new iPods, a new Mac OS, and the new iPhone -- and the 200 or so Apple Stores will play a key part in moving the merchandise.
These retail outlets are cash machines. More than 100 million people moved through the stores in the fiscal year that ended in September, generating about $4.2 billion of the company's $24 billion annual revenue.
The stores are also showcases, both for the company's products -- jewel-like devices that need to be seen and played with to be appreciated -- and for its legendary commitment to service and support. The staff are unfailingly courteous and helpful, enthusiastic evangelists for the cause.
Sometimes, they're a bit too enthusiastic. Witness the video below shot by a British user who braved freezing temperatures to attend the opening of the company's new Exeter store last week. Matt Aiken, who has a blog called Lost in Tech, describes the scene:
about 15 minutes before the store opened the staff began to hype up the crowd running up and down like loonatics, shouting and whooping. All a bit to much for some of the more reserved people in the queue, the guy next to me threatened to pull a moonie if they didn’t shut up! The opening was done in a similar fashion - watch the youtube video I made below sorry it’s a bit jerky.
ADDENDUM: Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster and his staff spent six hours Thanksgiving weekend monitoring the traffic at "normal" sized American Apple Stores in the East and Midwest. Quantifying the "gravitational pull" the stores have on nearby customers, they report that "27% of people walking within 25ft of an Apple store entrance actually entered the store." Muster concludes:
We note Apple stores are typically located in central, high traffic areas of a mall. Only a fraction of shoppers actually purchased anything from the Apple stores. The important point is this gravitational pull highlights that consumers' future buying intentions could be shifting to Apple from PCs. If materialized, this shift should benefit Apple in 2008 and 2009.
For more detail from Piper Jaffray's report, see AppleInsider here.