How Apple Brought Its Most Important Store Back To Life—Data Sheet

September 20, 2019, 10:30 AM UTC

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The ceiling is sky high, there’s many football fields of floor space, and a “hidden” staircase entrance at the back. I’m in New York City talking not about the new downtown Whitney or the renovated Museum of Modern Art, but the revamped flagship of all flagship Apple Stores, the one on Fifth Avenue at the corner of Central Park.

Apple reopens the store today, its only outlet that runs 24 hours a day for 365 days a year, after a reconstruction project that took two years and made many obvious–and some less obvious–improvements. I got a little tour on Thursday, perhaps the only time I’ve walked around an Apple Store that was quite so empty (I posted a few pictures on Twitter).

One striking and obvious change is the main staircase, which customers walk down after entering through the giant glass cube at street level. The frosted glass stairs so beloved by Steve Jobs have been replaced with a sturdier looking and much shinier stainless steel version that curls around a reflective center column (my first selfie spot). There’s also a lot more natural light pouring in from 62 skylights in the ceiling. Topside, some of the skylights are embedded in a series of mushroom-shaped benches scattered among a couple of dozen honey locust trees. That “hidden” staircase, over by the east side of the plaza on 59th Street, is really just a less showy entrance that also lands you on the main sales floor (one Apple exec said the cube entrance was for tourists treating their visit as a pilgrimage, the side stair for locals in a hurry). In total, the changes make the space more approachable, less dank, and a lot more natural (with multiple green walls and even some trees inside the main room). It’s exactly what the doctor ordered for the original space, which had become cramped, overcrowded, and even, on some visits, a bit malodorous.

A lot of retailers are going the other way. Lord & Taylor famously abandoned its flagship at 39th and Fifth Avenue last year, selling the building to WeWork for $850 million. Other major closures from the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, and the Gap have fed a narrative of retreat and demise.

But it’s only half true. Along with Apple, Levi’s, Nike and others have been expanding their flagships on the avenue. A store can be more than a showplace of goods, but also stir feelings in customers that build brand loyalty and entice return visits. The towering new Nike store, also on Fifth Avenue, makes me want to go for a run, personalize my kicks, and up my style game–all as I empty my wallet. Apple’s stores have long generated-and benefited from–the “halo effect,” as customers who first buy an iPhone discover the rest of the company’s product line. And now they can do so once again, on any day, at any hour, in the city that never sleeps.

Aaron Pressman

On Twitter: @ampressman



Preemptive cooling. A day before some employees at Amazon (and other tech companies) planned to walk out to protest inaction against climate change, CEO Jeff Bezos announced some measures to combat climate change. Amazon will reduce its net carbon emissions to zero by 2040. It's also ordering 100,000 electric delivery trucks from startup Rivian to be produced from 2022 through 2030. In other big tech CEO action, Facebook head honcho Mark Zuckerberg's Washington tour took him to the White House where he met with President Trump. Zuck promised lawmakers that Facebook would not launch its Libra digital currency anywhere in the world before it has approval from U.S. authorities.

Couch surfing for cash. Despite the ups (Datadog) and downs (WeWork) lately in the market for tech company stock debuts, Airbnb says it is ready to take the plunge. The home sharing service is planning to go public sometime next year, as its revenue in the second quarter exceeded $1 billion. Among other private tech startups, Stripe said it raised $250 million from investors including General Catalyst and Andreessen Horowitz in a deal valuing the payments company at $35 billion. Food delivery startup Postmates and Wordpress publisher Automattic also raised large sums from VCs this week.

Don't box me in. The leading maker of Internet-connected video set top boxes, Roku, rolled out a line of updated hardware. A revised Roku Express unit keeps it super-low $30 price tag in an even smaller package (let's play the "smaller than..." game–it's definitely smaller than a pack of cards, a grapefruit, or a shoebox). The $100 top-end Roku Ultra keeps its same boxy size and shape but gets a speedier processor and more memory. The line also includes the $60 Streaming Stick+ and $40 Premiere.

Nowhere to run, no place to hide. A study of the proliferation of surveillance cameras around the world ranked only one U.S. city, Atlanta, with its rate of 15.6 cameras per 1,000 residents, in the top 10. The top 5 cities were all in China, while Chicago ranked thirteenth. Research firm Comparitech, which conducted the study, counted the number of closed-circuit television cameras in 120 cities. Speaking of hiding, the Google Maps app is getting an incognito mode for those times when you don't want to be tracked that way.

Who owns what. The High Court of Paris ruled this week that French customers of the online video game service Steam must be allowed to resell games they've purchased to other consumers. Steam owner Valve said it opposed the decision and planned to appeal.

A loss. Tragedy struck at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., as an employee jumped to his death. First responders attempted to revive the man but failed. His name was not released.


A few longer reads that I came across this week that may be appealing for your weekend reading pleasure:

Who Would I Be Without Instagram? An investigation.
By Tavi Gevinson (The Cut)
My senior year of high school, I had three Instagram accounts: a public one, a private one for friends and internet friends, and a private one that was just for me.

What Really Brought Down the Boeing 737 Max? (New York Times Magazine)
Malfunctions caused two deadly crashes. But an industry that puts unprepared pilots in the cockpit is just as guilty.

The Best Things To Do In New York City (Griefbacon blog)
Get really angry at the subway. End up somewhere you didn’t intend to go. Yell out loud in public in a subway station without realizing you did; discover that nobody cares.

The 100 best films of the 21st century (The Guardian)
Gangsters, superheroes, school kids, lovers, slaves, peasants, techies, Tenenbaums and free-falling astronauts–they’re all here in our countdown of cinema’s best movies since 2000.


There must be about a billion messaging apps available on iOS and Android now–or its least it seems that way. But Amanda Mull, a writer for The Atlantic, has gone back to old-fashioned voice telephone calls for as much of her conversing as possible. She offers an array of reasons for the shift, including time efficiency:

One of the best arguments in favor of phone calls will be obvious to anyone who’s ever gone back and forth for three days via email trying to pick a spot for Tuesday’s happy hour. Guhan Subramanian, the director of the Harvard Program on Negotiation, which teaches business- and law-school students the finer points of conflict resolution, argues that spoken conversation accomplishes far more in a shorter amount of time. In any discussion, “people are asking questions, probing, asking follow-up questions,” he says. “It’s obviously a lot easier to do when you’re over the phone or in person, compared to by email or text.”


‘Security’ Cameras Are Dry Powder for Hackers. Here’s Why By Robert Hackett

Apple Arcade Review: A Power-Up for Mobile Gaming, But Not Nearly Enough to Topple the Console Bosses By Chris Morris

Beyond Meat Got Kicked Off the Menu at Some Tim Hortons Locations By Alex Nicoll

What is Datadog? Everything You Need to Know About Today’s IPO By Anne Sraders

Ripple Asks to Toss Lawsuit Over Crypto Securities By Jeff John Roberts

How the Best Workplaces Are Working Toward Better Gender Fairness By Ed Frauenheim

The Best College Majors for Getting a Job After Graduation By Anne Fisher


Ending the week on a sad note, Scientific American reports on a major study of bird populations in North America. Some three billion birds, or 29% of the total population, have disappeared since 1970. Somewhat surprisingly, and on a more upbeat note, wetland birds like ducks and geese have actually increased their numbers, thanks to the efforts of the hunting movement. “It’s because of the strong constituency of recreational waterfowl hunters who raised their voice, put money where their mouths are and saw to it that conservation programs and policies were put in place,” explains lead author and Cornell ornithologist Ken Rosenberg.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.

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